Opening remarks of Executive Vice-President Timmermans at the Extraordinary Energy Council on security of energy supply in the EU

©European Union, 2021, Source: EC - Audiovisual Service©European Union, 2021, Source: EC - Audiovisual Service

Dear Ministers

We saw during the pandemic, the COVID crisis, that if the EU comes together and we act together we are collectively so much stronger than the sum of 27 Member States. We also saw during that crisis that also here, Putin tried to divide and rule. And prove that we were not capable to do that, that he had a better vaccine and all of that. And it has turned out very differently. He couldn’t divide and rule us because we were united.

I believe the same issue should now dictate our choices in the coming winters.

We can make many predictions about what Putin will do. He will be unpredictable but there is one thing I am sure of. He will now try and use his gas, his oil to divide us, to create uncertainty in our societies, to create political turmoil. He is not new to that game. He has been doing that for 20 years. You know that: financing political parties, want to reject our way of life, buying influence in the media, buying influence in parts of the economy, and always with the aim to weaken and divide us because he fears a United Europe.

And rightly so because a United Europe stands for democracy. He hates democracy. He believes in autocracy. He thinks democracy is decadent and weak, and we will prove him wrong.

But as part of proving him wrong is also to create the right levels of solidarity in our energy system. So although many Europeans are making the choices to go for renewable energy because of the high prices, the unreliability, across our Member States many are buying solar panels as much as they can, looking for heat pumps, looking for alternatives to fossil fuels.

I was in Poland not that long ago and I was amazed to see how fast that country is transforming, also by the choices made by individual citizens.That’s heart-warming and inspiring to see across the European Union. But we also know this is not going to deliver us from a challenge in the coming, especially, two winters. What we need to do is to create security of supply.

The EU Energy Platform and the Task Force will rapidly take forward and coordinate the work of the five regional groups so that we make the most effective and efficient use of existing gas infrastructure across the Union, and fix problems when there are problems in this infrastructure. We are also moving ahead to facilitate joint purchasing of gas and hydrogen.

President von der Leyen and Kadri have had some real successes in recent days, in Azerbaijan and elsewhere. We are doing everything we can as a Union to diversify our gas supply ahead of next winter and we are on track to achieve the target of 60 bcm. I think we are beyond 35 bcm already.

With its other elements, RePowerEU can get us down to a third of the Russian gas imports we had last year. Already much more than we thought we were able to do in such a short space of time, and yet it might not be enough. Because if Putin closes the tap completely, you can be sure it happens in the moment he thinks will hurt us most.

To end this lingering vulnerability, we need to do more.

And we can. We have a choice to reduce our consumption of gas and to make solidarity work. These are steps we must take if we want to make sure that Putin doesn’t control our energy security.

If we don’t save 15% across the EU, under a voluntary or mandatory framework, we will be taking a dangerous gamble.

I salute you for adopting the compromise just now. And while that text is still an important step forward compared to where we are today, it is a hugely forward but we will need to be very much abreast on the developments so we can react to the developments, if that is needed.

Every day we postpone ambitious and difficult but also necessary savings. Wee increase the cost of facing an emergency. The longer you wait, the higher the costs. It is very clear. We would also make ourselves more vulnerable – in a colder winter, to higher competition on the LNG market, and to more Russian gas games.

We can be masters of our own energy security this winter but to do that we must save gas everywhere in the EU. And the good news is that if we do that we can also make a big hole in the export revenues of Putin. But much more importantly, we can prove to him we will stay the course until Ukraine is completely free of Russian’s aggression.