Reaffirm our unity! EU closes ranks as Michel to push for accelerated Russian gas cut

EU ‘needs to be less dependant’ on Russian gas says Michel

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Charles Michel claimed that the European Union could “reaffirm its unity” by pushing for an accelerated cut to Russian gas dependence. The EU Council President’s remarks at the summit today come as the EU has so far stopped short of following the UK, US, and Canada with a Russian energy embargo. Mr Michel urged action as he praised the US for striking a major deal on liquified natural gas (LNG) in an attempt to wean Europe off Russian energy.

Mr Michel told reporters: “Today we have to address the energy topic.

“It’s fundamental for our future and this was the reason a few years ago to make the green deal.

“We have to take the next steps and be less dependent.

“The announcement with Biden is important as we need new partners to accelerate the process as soon as possible.

“Today we will need to reaffirm our unwavering European unity on the common purchase of gas and storage capacities and of course we are following the social consequences of the increase in gas prices.”

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Belgian Prime Minister Alexander de Croo also praised the US deal, saying it would help bring down gas prices in Europe. 

The deal on LNG will see the US provide the EU with at least 15 billion additional cubic metres (bcm) of fuel by the end of the year.

Russia is the EU’s top gas supplier, sending a total of 155 bcm of gas to the EU in 2021.

European nations have been scrambling to reduce their reliance on Russian fossil fuels in the wake of Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine.

While the EU has pledged to cut its Russian gas use by two-thirds this year, there have been demands to do more faster.

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Earlier this week, a deep split emerged within the EU as foreign ministers disagreed on whether and how to slap sanctions on Russia’s energy sector.

Latvia, Lithuania, and Poland were among those seeking to block the hundreds of millions of euros per day Europe pays Russia for gas.

Lithuania’s Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis tweeted: “Why should Europe give Putin more time to earn more money from oil and gas?

“More time to use European ports? More time to use unsanctioned Russian banks in Europe? Time to pull the plug.”

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Latvian Prime Minister Arturs Karins echoed this, saying: “Energy sanctions are a way to stop money flowing into Putin’s war coffers.

“The most logical place to move forward is in oil and coal.”

However, Germany, Hungary the Netherlands are arguing against intervention, pointing to the economic damage an oil embargo would unleash.

German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock said: “Germany is importing a lot of Russian oil, but there are also other member states who can’t stop the oil imports from one day to the other.”

Spain, Belgium, Italy, Greece and Portugal have proposed energy price caps to resolve the crisis and push ahead with an embargo. 

Charles Michael was recently re-elected as EU Council President – after no opposition candidate ran against him.

President Joe Biden joked about this yesterday, saying: “I came to congratulate a man who just got re-elected without opposition. I dream of that someday.” 

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