European Union proposes 15% reduction in gas use amid Russia threats

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BRUSSELS (AP) — The European Union’s head office on Wednesday proposed that member states cut their gas use by 15% over the coming months to ensure that any full Russian cutoff of natural gas supplies to the bloc will not fundamentally disrupt industries next winter.

While the initial cuts would be voluntary cuts, the Commission also asked for the power to impose mandatory reductions across the bloc in the event of an EU-wide alert “when there is a substantial risk of a severe gas shortage or an exceptionally high demand of gas occurs, which results in a significant deterioration of the gas supply situation.”

The need is high, said EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen.

“Russia is blackmailing us. Russia is using energy as a weapon. And therefore, in any event, whether it’s a partial major cutoff of Russian gas or total cutoff of Russian gas, Europe needs to be ready,” von der Leyen said.

EU member states will discuss the measures at an emergency meeting of energy ministers next Tuesday. For them to be approved, national capitals would have to consider yielding their powers over energy policy to Brussels.

Wednesday’s proposal comes at a time when a blog post from the International Monetary Fund has warned about the power Russian President Vladimir Putin could wield by weaponizing energy exports and choking off the 27-nation bloc.

“The partial shutoff of gas deliveries is already affecting European growth, and a full shutdown could be substantially more severe,” the IMFBlog warned. It added that gross domestic product in member nations like Hungary, Slovakia and the Czech Republic could shrink by up to 6%.

Italy, a country already facing serious economic problems, “would also face significant impacts.”

EU economic forecasts last week showed that Russia’s war in Ukraine is expected to wreak havoc with economic recovery for the foreseeable future, with lower annual growth and record-high inflation. The disruptions in Russian energy trade threaten to trigger a recession in the bloc just as it is recovering from a pandemic-induced slump

Since Russia invaded Ukraine, the EU has approved bans on Russian coal and most oil to take effect later this year, but it did not include natural gas because the 27-nation bloc depends on gas to power factories, generate electricity and heat homes. Now, it fears that Putin will cut off gas anyway to try to wreak economic and political havoc in Europe this winter.

This article was originally published by Marketwatch.com. Read the original article here.

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