EU bust-up brews as Spain rebels against energy masterplan to scupper Putin

Russian gas 'could' be used to 'derail European Unity' says expert

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Energy shortages are a clear impact Vladimir Putin’s invasion of his neighbour is having on the West. Within the European Union, the matter is even causing division.

The European Commission on Wednesday unveiled a masterplan which could see member nations cut their gas use by 15 percent from August to March, compared with their average consumption in the same period during 2016-2021. But Spain bluntly said it had no intention to follow along.

Spanish Energy Minister Teresa Ribera said on Thursday the government will not order consumers to limit their gas use.

She told reporters: “We cannot assume a disproportionate sacrifice on which we have not even been asked for a prior opinion.

“They have given us a set menu without asking us about our food limitations.”

Speaking at a press conference held hours after the Commission unveiled the plan, Ms Ribera said she considers the proposed policy “neither the most effective, nor the most efficient, nor the fairest”.

Whatever happens, she said, “Spanish families are not going to suffer gas or electricity cuts in their homes”.

Brussels’ regulation needs approval from a reinforced majority of EU members, and country diplomats are set to discuss it on Tuesday with the aim of approving it at an emergency meeting of their energy ministers on July 26.

Putin 'continues to use energy as a weapon' says Von der Leyen

If given the green light, the proposal would enable the bloc to make the target mandatory during a supply emergency in which the EU declared a substantial risk of severe gas shortages.

EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said: “Russia is blackmailing us. Russia is using energy as a weapon.

“And therefore, in any event, whether it’s a partial, major cut-off of Russian gas or a total cut-off of Russian gas, Europe needs to be ready.”

But according to Spain’s Ms Ribera, Spaniards “do not deserve restrictions or rationing”.

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While Madrid defends European values and will show solidarity with the rest of the Union, the head of energy said, that won’t happen “at the expense of domestic and industrial consumers” who “have been paying very high bills for a long time”.

Highlighting the “fundamental” role the Mediterranean nation can play as the “gateway” for more than 30 percent of liquefied natural gas (LNG) to Europe, with infrastructures prepared to support “its neighbours”, Ms Ribera said the country will be more “useful” if it can provide others with energy.

She said: “Spain is a country committed to solidarity, but we have to see what is the best way to offer solidarity, which is probably more linked to the ability to use our infrastructures to support member states that depended on gas arriving by pipeline”.

In an unusually harsh remark aimed at fellow EU members, she added: “Unlike other countries, Spaniards have not lived beyond our means from an energy point of view.

“We are not going to allow proposals that demand more from us than from other countries.”

Ms Ribera stressed Spain will go to the summit of energy ministers next week to “defend the interests of all Spaniards with a supportive, effective, efficient and coordinated proposal”.

Countries such as Austria, Germany and Denmark have said they are considering emergency plans that would ultimately entail gas rationing, which suggests they might be on board with the EU’s policy.

Countries including Poland and Hungary, however, have already expressed resistance to the proposal.

Additional reporting by Maria Ortega

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