| 29 February 2024, Thursday |

EU leaders to seek cautious ‘phase out’ from Russian energy: Draft

EU leaders meeting in France on Thursday will call for a phase-out of the continent’s energy reliance on Russia, falling short of calls from Kyiv and Washington for a more complete break with Moscow as a supplier.

The European Union’s 27 leaders will gather in Versailles for two days and will agree, according to a draft declaration seen by AFP, “to phase down our reliance on Russian gas, oil, and coal imports.”

The proposal for a long-term disengagement from Russian fossil fuels comes at a time when the European Union imports approximately 40% of its natural gas from Russia, a reliance that has been called into question following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Germany, Europe’s largest economy and export powerhouse, is particularly reliant on Russian energy, with Italy, Hungary, the Czech Republic, and Slovakia also relying heavily on Russian gas and oil.

Western allies are reportedly contemplating a new round of sanctions against Russia at the request of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, with the country’s vital energy sector regarded as the most effective means to tighten the screws.

As the fight develops, top US ambassador Antony Blinken said on Sunday that both the US and Europe are “quite actively debating” attacking Russian fossil fuels.

However, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz shot down predictions that further sanctions would be imposed on Russia’s most important sector, citing its “vital” relevance to Europe’s economy.

“At the present, there is no other option to supply Europe with energy for heat generation, mobility, electricity supply, and industry,” Scholz added.

EU leaders would also agree to increase defense expenditure “significantly” and “collaboratively” within the European Union, according to the draft summit declaration.

This reflects France’s long-standing position as the summit’s host and holder of the EU’s rotating presidency.

Paris wants the EU to play a bigger role in Europe’s collective defense, which is now being handled by the US-led NATO alliance, which is sending troops to Ukraine owing to Russia’s incursion.

  • AFP