Energy ministers from the 27 EU member states, except Hungary, backed a voluntary 15% reduction in gas usage over the winter. Under the energy savings plan, all EU member states will strive to reduce gas consumptionfrom August through to the end of March. EU states can also declare an energy emergency that triggers immediate mandatory savings, if needed. Countries will be exempt from mandatory cuts if they are island nations unconnected to the EU gas network, a provision that applies to Ireland, Malta and Cyprus.The deal came less than 24 hours after Russia’s state-controlled energy firm, Gazprom, announced a steep reduction in gas supplies through the critical Nord Stream 1 pipeline from Wednesday. The European Commission head, Ursula von der Leyen, has accused the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, of attempting to blackmail European countries for supporting Ukraine.
“The announcement by Gazprom that it is further cutting gas deliveries to Europe through Nord Stream 1, for no justifiable technical reason, further illustrates the unreliable nature of Russia as an energy supplier,” Von der Leyen said. Kadri Simson, the EU’s energy commissioner, said such behaviour from Moscow brought “consensus around the table that we need to get ready for the worst”. Hungary, which has already secured an opt-out from the EU’s embargo on Russian oil, was alone in voicing its opposition. Spain, Portugal and Greece led opposition to the uniform 15% target, arguing it was unfair and failed to take account of their national circumstances.