14 Apr 2022 7:16 pm
The former Foreign Minister of Austria Dr. In an interview with RT, Karin Kneissl analyzed the energy policy situation in the EU and the consequences of the oil and gas sanctions policy towards Moscow. The outlook for the economy and society is bleak if the current course is maintained.
When asked about an EU energy embargo on Russia, the former chief diplomat explained that it is not just about natural gas as a fuel, but as an energy source for power generation and as a raw material for the chemical industry and many other areas of industry. The German Federal Ministry of Economics under Robert Habeck is already running through various scenarios, and the room temperature in the apartments is just one aspect among many.
As far as the low levels in the gas storage tanks are concerned and how to react to this, Kneissl said that this question has been discussed since April 2021. In the last two years, the gas storage facilities have not been filled up sufficiently. According to Kneissl, they do not know who is responsible for the low levels. However, a low filling level represents a “huge” problem. A possible remedy is also being hampered by federalism in Germany and similarly in Austria.
It is unclear with which gas and at what price the storage tanks can be refilled. The Economics Ministry in Berlin is apparently of the opinion that they can somehow make it through to early autumn – through clever use of the reserves in the storage facilities and gas imports from abroad. The topic is well known and “not just on the table since yesterday.” When asked to what extent expropriations of Russian energy companies in Germany could help, Kneissl answered skeptically.
On April 1, Berlin put the former “Gazprom Germania” under trusteeship after “Gazprom” gave up its German subsidiary on March 31. The reason given by the German side is that allegedly not all the necessary legal and administrative steps had previously been followed by the Russian side.
As far as the refineries in Germany operated by the Russian oil company “Rosneft” are concerned, for example the refinery in Schwedt an der Oder, which ensures a large part of the kerosene for Berlin Airport and the diesel supply in northern Germany, Kneissl could not say whether this would also be the case in this case a fiduciary administration will be used or even an expropriation is planned.
To justify all of these steps, the need to maintain the energy supply is always underlined in the German debate. Should there be expropriations as a “last resort”, the Russian side is already playing through possible reactions. It can be assumed that in such a case Moscow would proceed ‘symmetrically’ and could expropriate German companies in Russia.
In principle, however, the means of expropriation is nothing new in the field of energy policy, because, for example, this means has already been used in the past as part of the German “energy transition”, for example to clear areas for energy production plants.
Up until a few weeks ago, the focus was on climate policy and decarbonization, now “the actual core of every energy policy” has become the “main topic” again. Because the current debate is again primarily about supplying industry and households – at “affordable prices”. And the supply should also be reliable: “if possible, a 24-hour supply”.
Kneissl warned against the illusion that Russian natural gas can easily be replaced, if only once terminals (e.g. for LNG) have been built and the necessary infrastructure has been created. Because the chemical composition of the various types of gas also plays a significant role in further use. The entire processing in the chemical industry would have to be changed if fracking or liquid gas were to be used.
The former foreign minister drew attention to an aspect that received little attention in the debate: Germany – together with Austria and Hungary – is under great pressure from other EU countries and world politics, primarily because of the images of the war in Ukraine.
In addition, however, those EU countries that suffered a few years ago from German austerity policies and the Merkel government’s strict “reform requirements” to save the euro now show little understanding for the sudden economic hardships of Central Europeans. For example, one can hear from Greece, Italy or Spain, which had to accept draconian austerity measures from the EU and thus huge economic losses, that ten years ago they themselves suffered badly and now it is Germany’s turn. The economic downturn in Germany would not be as sharp as in the southern European neighbors as a result of the EU conditions. These tensions within the EU could potentially be even more serious and have longer-term repercussions than the consequences of an energy supply freeze from Russia.
In any case, the “world export champion” Germany, the most important economy within the EU, is under enormous international pressure, also because of its Russia policy over the last 20 years.
More on the subject – French economist: “Russian economy stronger than we think”