The bloc purchased replacement fuel at higher prices that “others could not pay,” Brussels’ top diplomat has admitted
By weaning itself off Russian energy after the start of the Ukraine conflict, the EU may have simply traded one dependency for another, the bloc’s top diplomat Josep Borrell has said.
Speaking at a geopolitical summit organized by Le Grand Continent journal on Wednesday, Borrell admitted that, while the bloc usually struggles to work out compromises on complex issues because even one member can block the process, it “miraculously” managed to harmonize its response to the hostilities in Ukraine quite quickly.
“Europe’s reaction to the war against Ukraine was remarkable… drastically reducing energy dependence on Moscow, which seemed impossible,” he noted, recalling that at the start of the conflict Russian energy accounted for about 40% of the bloc’s total consumption.
The top diplomat said that, despite Moscow’s belief that this would prevent the EU from taking decisive action, this was not what happened in reality. However, he admitted that the bloc had to pay a heavy price for its energy policy.
“Prices went up, as did interest rates. The economy… suffered. We paid a political price, we bought a lot of gas, all over the world, we had to buy at higher prices that others could not pay. Maybe we have changed one dependency for another. But in any case, we have freed ourselves from energy dependence on Russia,” he said.
In March 2022, the EU unveiled a plan to wean itself off Russian fossil fuels “well before 2030,” by increasing the use of renewable energy sources, reducing consumption, and finding other energy sources.
The EU’s initiative coincided with the bloc’s push to impose unprecedented sanctions on Russia, including in the energy sector. Those measures, including the sabotage of the Nord Stream gas pipelines last autumn, which Russia claimed was orchestrated either by the US or its allies, were widely regarded to have sparked a powerful energy crisis in the bloc.
Russian officials have repeatedly stated that the EU has never been able to achieve true energy independence, arguing that it had become addicted to American gas while moving away from Moscow.
Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova also said in January that the EU “is now completely dependent on the US, because it has lost the freedom of choice. This is the real dependency and what Washington had been aiming for.”