BRUSSELS — European leaders are growing concerned about the possibility of a complete shutdown of gas supplies from Russia, with Italy calling for a new meeting to discuss the matter.
Gazprom, Russia’s state-backed energy provider, has cut its gas flows to Europe by about 60% in recent weeks, leading Germany, Italy, Austria and the Netherlands to indicate they could go back to coal one more time.
It arrives like Europe, which receives about 40% of its gas through Russian pipelines, is seeking to rapidly reduce its dependence on Russian hydrocarbons in response to the Kremlin’s nearly four-month ramming in ukraine.
“Russia is reducing gas supplies little by little, to some countries [by] almost 100%; others, cutting 10, 15%,” Josep Borrel, the EU’s top diplomat, told CNBC on Friday.
“I don’t think they are going to cut off gas overnight, especially as we are entering the summer and during the summer gas is not a strategic weapon. But the winter could be difficult and we have to be prepared in Europe.” “
Asked if he was concerned that Russia could completely cut off gas supplies, Luxembourg Prime Minister Xavier Bettel told CNBC: “I am fully aware that they can. They can. It is their choice, their natural choice. They can.” close or open.
He stressed the importance of all 27 EU member states agreeing on their approach to the issue. “In Moscow a person can decide for himself to cut power to Europe.”
Employees walk under pipes leading to oil storage tanks at the central oil and gas processing plant at the Salym Petroleum Development oil fields near the Bazhenov shale formation in Salym, Russia.
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European Parliament President Roberta Metsola said Thursday that the situation was worrying.
“We had [concerns] since day 1. At the end of the day, some countries are more dependent than others on Russian gas. Not only in the short and medium term, we need to find solutions to that,” he said.
Meanwhile, Italy has requested an EU-level meeting next month to further discuss the energy and economic situation, according to three EU officials who did not want to be identified due to the sensitivity of the matter.
Reduced gas flows have deepened concerns that the EU could be about to face a tough economic period. Berenberg analysts said this week that the latest gas cuts meant their new base case for Europe was recession.
“Hit harder than the United States from the impact of energy prices, we project that the euro zone economy will enter a recession before the United States,” Berenberg analysts said in a note on Tuesday.
EU leaders have so far refused to talk about the possibility of a recession or a new economic crisis, but have acknowledged that the coming winter will be difficult.
Speaking to CNBC on Friday morning, Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson said she is ready for the leaders to meet again next month, provided the bloc can announce measures to address economic pressures.
“We are definitely in a difficult economic situation with inflation and shortages of gas and electricity,” he said.
Metsola of the European Parliament agreed. “The next few months are going to be very difficult and we are concerned that we are facing a, shall we say, expensive and difficult winter from an energy point of view.”
— CNBC’s Sam Meredith contributed to this report