European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen gives a joint press statement in Brussels, Belgium, on February 27. She said on Tuesday that member states agreed to ration natural gas. File Photo by Stephanie Lecocq/EPA-EFE
July 26 (UPI) -- The European Union announced Tuesday that it will start rationing natural gas in the face of Russia's pullback on energy over sanctions the bloc placed on the Kremlin for its invasion of Ukraine.
European leaders feared that Moscow would not restart the Nord Stream 1 natural gas pipeline to Germany, which was shut down for maintenance. Russia started it again but only at 40% capacity, renewing fears that the Kremlin could slash all supplies as the season changes. Russia announced another cut in gas on Monday.
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said she "strongly [welcomed] the endorsement" by its Council of the Council Regulation to coordinate the reductions collectively by 15%.
"The political agreement reached by council in record time, based on the commission's proposal 'Save gas for a safe winter' tabled last week, will ensure an orderly and coordinated reduction of gas consumption across the E.U. to prepare for the coming winter," von der Leyden said in a statement.
"The collective commitment to reduce by 15% is very significant and will help fill our storage ahead of winter. Moreover, the possibility to declare a state of E.U. alert triggering compulsory gas consumption reductions across the member states provides a strong signal that the E.U. will do whatever it takes to ensure its security of supply and protect its consumers, be it households or industry."
Western Europe has been relying on fossil fuel energy from Russia for decades and is now struggling to find alternative sources in the face of Russian threats. The European Union recently negotiated new deals with the United States and Azerbaijan.
"By acting together to reduce the demand for gas, taking into account all the relevant national specificities, the E.U. has secured the strong foundations for the indispensable solidarity between member states in the face of the [Russian President Vladimir] Putin's energy blackmail," von der Leyen said.
"The announcement by Gazprom that it is further cutting gas deliveries to Europe through Nord Stream 1, for no justifiable technical reason, further illustrates the unreliable nature of Russia as an energy supplier."
Kremlin Spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters on Tuesday repairs to the Nord Stream 1 turbines were the cause for the cutbacks and then blamed Western sanctions against Russia for making those repairs "complicated."
"The turbine has not yet arrived and has not been installed after the overhaul," Peskov said, according to the state-run news agency TASS. "It is on its way. Let's hope that this will happen sooner rather than later."