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EU plans emergency gas sharing

The European Commission plans to force EU countries to share gas supplies if there is a supply interruption, according to press reports.11 Feb 2016

The Commission is keen to avoid a repeat of problems in Eastern European countries in 2006 and 2009 when gas supplies from Russia were interrupted, and wants to impose a European rather than a national response to future crises, the Financial Times reported.

"The security of supply in the EU cannot be sufficiently achieved by member states alone and can . . . better be achieved at a union level," the Commission said in a draft seen by the paper. 

Under the proposals, Europe will be split into nine zones, with nations in each zone expected to build joint stocks and infrastructure. The Commission will monitor the plans in each zone and also wants to vet gas contracts before they are signed, the newspaper said.

In what the Commission calls "mandatory solidarity", priority will be given to supply to households and to infrastructure including heating networks and hospitals.  If one country does not have enough to supply these, a better-supplied neighbour would have to help, the Financial Times said.

The Commission has planned a press conference for 16 February to present an energy security package. This will include a "revision of the regulation on security of gas supply which intends to improve the EU's resilience to supply disruptions", but it is not clear whether it will cover the sharing of supplies.

The European Commission said in 2014 that it planned to form a "high-level working group" to coordinate proposals for expanding the EU’s gas supply infrastructure, including cross-border projects to diversify gas supplies.

According to figures released by the Commission at the time, the EU imports 53% of the energy it consumes, at a cost of more than €1 billion a day. Almost 90% of crude oil is imported and 66% of natural gas comes from sources outside the EU, the Commission said. Russia was the source of 33% of the EU's oil imports and 42% of its natural gas imports in 2013.