26 July 2022
European Union governments agreed Tuesday to ration natural gas this winter.
The move is meant to prevent severe shortages in the future. The agreement came after less than one week of talks.
EU officials hope rationing gas in the winter will protect Europe against further supply cuts by Russia as it continues its invasion of Ukraine.
EU energy officials approved a draft European law meant to lower demand for gas by 15 percent from August through March. The new law includes voluntary national measures to reduce gas use. But if the voluntary measures do not ease supplies enough, there will be required measures for the 27-country group.
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said in a statement that "the EU has taken a decisive step to face down the threat of a full gas disruption by (Russian President Vladimir) Putin."
On Monday, Russian energy company Gazprom said it would limit supplies to the EU through the Nord Stream 1 pipeline to 20 percent of the normal amount. There are fears the Russian president will continue to use the gas trade against the EU for its opposition to the war in Ukraine.
"The winter is coming and we don't know how cold it will be," said Czech Industry Minister Jozef Sikela, whose policy responsibilities include energy. He said he believes Russia will continue to use gas to try to influence Europe.
The EU reached the agreement in less than one week. It is based on a proposal from the European Commission, the EU's executive arm. The commission said the rationing would permit the group to get through the winter if Russia stops all gas supplies.
Russia invaded Ukraine in February. Western countries reacted with economic sanctions. Since then, 12 EU countries have faced stops to, or reductions in, Russian gas supplies.
The EU has agreed to ban oil and coal from Russia starting later this year. But it has not sanctioned Russian natural gas. That is because Germany, Italy and several other member states depend on Russia's supply.
Problems between Russia and the EU are fueling inflation, which is already at record high levels in Europe and may start a recession there.
The energy supply shortage is also testing European cooperation over policy. The EU has gained power over things like monetary, trade, and farm policies. But individual countries make their own decisions on energy.
For example, the energy ministers removed a requirement in the draft law that would have given the European Commission more power. The commission had wanted the power to decide on any voluntary or required action. Instead, officials made sure any decision on required steps will be in the hands of national governments.
I'm Ashley Thompson.
Dan Novak adapted this story for VOA Learning English based on reporting by The Associated Press.
Words in This Story
ration — v. to control the amount of a product that people can have when there is not enough of it
draft –n. a version of a document that is made in preparation for the final version
decisive — adj. able to make choices quickly and confidently
sanction — n. an action that is taken or an order that is given to force a country to obey international laws by limiting or stopping trade with that country, by not allowing economic aid for that country