As the cold war over Russian gas supplies to European customers heats up, vulnerability comes knocking, and many in the EU are lamenting the lack of solidarity and common energy policies.
They argue this has happened before, and previous sticking to the individualistic commercial dimension showed poor judgement. The chairman of the European Parliament’s foreign affairs committee says the political realisation of strength in numbers is beginning to dawn. EPPMEP Jacek Saryusz-Wolski said: “More and more countries, even those that have chosen the bilateral deals over the multilateral European Union level approach, are now changing their perspectives: Austria, in spite the bilateral deal, is cut off; Bulgaria, in spite of the bilateral deal, is cut off.” The damaging shutdown in Russian supplies has revived calls within the European Union to find other suppliers. But real diversification cannot happen quickly. Before that, a prominent voice in Warsaw said, Russia may use the gas crisis with Ukraine to support arguments for alternative construction. Such a high percentage of EU gas imports from Russia passes through Ukraine that skirting it is a powerful interest. Starting construction of the Russia-Germany Nord Stream pipeline is said to be relatively imminent. The South Stream pipeline would also carry Russian gas, with Italy on the receiving end. Only the Nabucco project cuts out Russia. It is meant to pipe Caspian gas across Turkey to Austria. A European Parliament liberal with Internal Market, Consumer Protection and Foreign Affairs responsibilities warns not to get fixated on pipelines. MEP Alexander Graf Lambsdorff,said: “We also need to look beyond gas, we need to look to liquified natural gas for example, that can be transported by ship and not by pipeline, we need to look to nuclear energy, we need to look to alternatives sources of energy, renewables, there is a number of things we need to do, but it is very clear we need to diversify our energy resources, especially some countries, that are particularly dependant on Russian gas.” As millions of people, mostly in eastern and central Europe, bear the brunt of polar temperatures without adequate fuel, the EU energy ministers are preparing for an emergency meeting on Monday. Jacek Saryusz-Wolski saw a glow at the end of the tunnel: “In this fatal, catastrophic situation, there is something good: It is the second wake-up call, and I hope the result will be a common foreign policy on energy security.”