Putin’s war against Ukraine has brought to the fore the internal European conflict between those who prioritize economic interests and the defenders of the Union’s values (freedom, equality, democracy and respect for human dignity). This contradiction became apparent as the EU became aware of its energy dependency on Russia.
For more than 15 years, the European authorities have been warning Russia for its violation of the law. In October 2006, Josep Borrell, then President of the European Parliament, already exhorted Putin: “You cannot exchange energy for Human Rights.”
In Europe, however, priority has been given to energy security promoted by Germany, in favor of increasing economic cooperation as the best way to bring Russia closer to democracy. In line with this strategy, the Nord Stream I (2011) and Nord Stream II (2018) gas pipelines were built, with a capacity of 55,000 million cubic meters of gas (55bcm) each. The Gazprom-dominated construction company is chaired by former German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder. Nord Stream II has not been able to function and has been suspended by German Chancellor Olaf Scholz last February. Both gas pipelines meant a false step and a serious gesture of lack of solidarity towards Ukraine and the countries that were excluded from the Russian supply.
Europe’s dependence on Russian gas has continued to grow. Russian gas imports have gone from representing 32% of the total in 2006 to 45% in 2021. Dependence increased despite human rights violations.
There is a parallel between economic decisions in the field of energy and finance. The Spanish financial entities that caused the real estate bubble (the most expensive in the EU, with 58,368 million euros definitively lost) could only do so due to the reckless financing of the German, French and Dutch banks seeking maximum profitability.
Something similar has happened with energy. Germany knew the risks of putting its economic development in the hands of Putin. Economic interests prevailed. Another bill for the domain of finance over the economy and society.
He knows in depth all the sides of the coin.
The war has accelerated everything and Europe has had to quickly become aware of its energy weaknesses. Now it is trying to reduce its maddening dependence on Russia. Of the 155 bcm of gas it imported in 2021, Europe intends to do without two-thirds (101 bcm) by the end of the year. A much more ambitious bet than that of the International Energy Agency (IEA) that sees it possible to reduce purchases by half.
It is surprising that savings policies have not already been adopted as in previous crises. The EU must intensify its common energy policy with measures such as strengthening connections between countries and accelerating the use of alternative sources such as wind and solar power. And above all, do not give up the defense of human rights.
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