The European Council on March 25 announced new measures aimed at reducing European dependence on Russian energy, including a common procurement platform that will be open also to the Western Balkans and to the three associated EaP partners, Ukraine, the Republic of Moldova and Georgia. The EU leaders agreed that the member states will work to jointly purchase gas, liquefied natural gas and hydrogen. The Moldovan authorities welcomed the Council’s decision. The experts invited to a public debate staged by IPN News Agency discusses what happened and changed and what will yet happen and change following such a decision.
Explaining the terms, the standing expert of IPN’s project Igor Boțan said the European Council forms part of the seven very important institutions of the EU that are covered by the Treaty of Lisbon. It is a collegiate body that defines the overall political direction and priorities of the European Union. It is composed of the heads of state or government of the EU member states, the President of the European Council, and the President of the European Commission. While the European Council has no legislative power, it is a strategic body that provides the union with general political directions and priorities, and acts as a collective presidency.
“The conclusions following the meetings of March 24 and 25 center on five key areas in which the EU expressed its political will. These are: Russia’s aggression against Ukraine and the way in which the EU intends to act further; defense and security and the measures that are to be taken by the European Commission; energy security, economy and economic development of the EU in the new conditions; fight against the COVID-19 pandemic, and planning of the EU-China Summit,” stated Igor Boțan.
According to the expert, these are important decisions given the new context for Europe, in which international order is challenged by the Russian Federation, which claims to be a pole of the multipolar world and hence attacked Ukraine. “This made the EU review many of its essential policies, the most important of which is the ensuring of its energy independence from the Russian Federation that, during the last half a year, used economic blackmail against European Union member states and other countries in Europe. The new approach of the EU is aimed at removing the blackmail used by Russia as an international energy power that applies such leverage for political purposes. The new energy strategy is to be worked out by the European Commission and the period of reflection on the new approach will last until June. The Moldovan authorities have to do a series of important things in this regard,” stated Igor Boțan.
Adrian Băluțel, a member of the parliamentary group of the Party of Action and Solidarity, said the European Council issued a statement with EU policy and energy security directives concerning the process of purchasing energy resources. “A new energy security strategy of the European Union is to be designed and this will stipulate how the negotiations will be held and in what conditions the EU member states can take part in this process. It is important that at this stage, the European Council, having very great political power in the European Union, clearly noted the Associated Trio - Georgia, Ukraine and the Republic of Moldova – and the Western Balkans as countries on which the European Union’s energy security policies should and can have an impact. This means that the European Union is concerned about the energy security not only of the EU member states, but also of the countries that have association ambitions and want deeper European integration,” stated Adrian Băluțel.
The PAS MP believes the process of joining the EU offers possibilities to the Republic of Moldova, or to any other country that aims to join the EU, to form part of more programs that are accessible to the EU member states. “It is important that the EU, regardless of the status of member or non-member, regards the region of which the Republic of Moldova forms part as one that is affected by the energy crisis and aims to offer particular energy security instruments to the Republic of Moldova and to other affected countries of the region. The inclusion of the Republic of Moldova in the list of countries that will be able to jointly access these energy resources shows the EU is preoccupied with the energy security of the Republic of Moldova. It is political openness for greater integration between the EU and the Republic of Moldova. I hope the mechanisms by which this will happen will be accessible to Moldova and there will be no differences compared with the member states,” he noted.
Energy expert Sergiu Tofilat said the option to jointly buy gas comes in response to the aggression and blackmail attempts made by the Kremlin through Gazprom, which is rather an extension of the Russian foreign ministry and which uses the gas as a political weapon, as an instrument for achieving particular goals. “In this case, it goes to a player that satisfies about 40% of the gas consumption in the EU. The situation changes now. If Gazprom had pursued corporate policies and economic goals and eliminated the political goals, Moldova wouldn’t have been a party to this initiative. Vladimir Putin tries to blackmail any state that shares the democratic values and observes the human rights, primarily the citizens’ right to choose themselves the country’s administration, and this is evidently a danger for his regime and he therefore attempts to annihilate any democratic aspirations and hence attacked Ukraine,” stated Sergiu Tofilat.
“The goal of the European Council’s decision is to counteract Gazprom’s attempt to blackmail the EU. When it goes to negotiations, the quantity and price matter. Most probably, the transport system operators in each country will transmit a procurement plan or delivery schedule for those who will negotiate on behalf of the EU and the partner countries to have a clear picture about the necessary quantities of gas and during what period. This is also beneficial to those that supply gas as they can easier plan the investments and have a broader planning horizon. From commercial viewpoint, for Moldova the point throng which the supplier will bring gas to the country does not matter. This can bring gas from Turkey or from Poland, Romania. Technically speaking, the rout of gas supplies can change. If the gas is taken to the LNG terminals in Poland, for example, it will not be physically taken to Moldova as it will remain in the EU, but will be taken from the gas transited from Russia through Ukraine to the European market. If the gas comes from Romania or from the south, the route will change. Moldova now has the technical possibility to bring gas through three other alternative routes. However, to fully cover consumption, primarily in the southern districts, the Trans-Balkan gas pipeline needs to be active” said the expert.
The public debate titled “The Republic of Moldova will buy gas through the European Union: What does this mean and what effects should we expect?”, was the 232nd installment of IPN’s project “Developing Political Culture through Public Debates” that is supported by the Hanns Seidel Foundation.