Russia state owned gas company, Gazprom (GAZP.MM) said it would cut flows through the Nord Stream 1 pipeline to Germany to 20 percent starting from Wednesday as Europe faces an increased gas squeeze as winter approaches.
With a dozen EU countries already facing lower Russian supplies, the EU is urging member states to save gas and store it for winter for fear Russia will completely cut off flows in retaliation for Western sanctions over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Energy ministers approved a proposal for all EU countries to voluntarily cut gas use by 15% in the August to March period .
The cuts could be made binding in a supply emergency, provided a majority of EU countries agree to this. But countries agreed to exempt numerous countries and industries from the binding 15% cut, after some governments opposed the EU’s original proposal to apply it to every country.
German Economy Minister Robert Habeck said the agreement will show Russian President Vladimir Putin that Europe remained united in the face of Moscow’s latest gas cuts. “You will not split us,” Habeck said.
Hungary, heavily dependent on Russian energy, was the only country that opposed the deal, two EU officials said.
Gazprom blamed its latest reduction on needing to halt the operation of a turbine – a reason dismissed by EU energy chief Kadri Simson, who called the move “politically motivated.”
Simson said the agreement should ensure countries save enough gas to survive an average winter if Russia fully cut supplies now, but an unusually cold winter would require more severe measures.
Russia supplied 40% of EU gas before it invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24, in what Moscow calls a “special military operation”.