Germany’s Role on the current energy crisis: facing challenges under the framework of cooperation with the EU Member-States

20 March 2023 /

5 min

As Germany detains a large portion of the European total natural gas, both nominal and percentage wise, coupled with its great storage capacity, it is consequently no secret that part of the response of the European Union to the emergent energetic crisis comes precisely from this country. It is, however, curious to note that the very same nation that has the biggest responsiveness capacity to the growing crisis is at the same time one of the countries that has contributed the most to the current energy dependency crisis. This article will reflect on the German decisions and how they affected- and continue to affect- the current situation in light of the present situation characterised by a lack of negotiation consensus among the European Union Member States.

Merkel Energy Negotiations with Putin – Germany to Blame?

In a period where most of the European Union economies are being being affected by the implementation of the sanctions as well as due to the destruction of the e famed gas pipeline known as Nord Stream 1, several academics and analysts of the most credited think tanks have started to ask whether the European economy can surpass a energetic crisis that will probably not only last a winter, but rather has come to stay.

As Europeans approach winter and are consequently confronted with the development of the serious consequences of the energy crisis, one can naturally pose a first question regarding who  is responsible for this situation, excluding of course the main antagonist  Russia. This search for accountability emerges due to the increase of gas prices felt throughout Europe, to which some scholars agree that could have represented less impact should the dependence created with Russia in the last decade be less intense. It is also possible to pinpoint that the current European necessity of Russian gas derives  mainly from the negotiations between the Merkle’s government and the Kremlin in the past decade. As the two countries developed close economic ties, mainly in the energy sector negotiations, the energy dependence grew with a total of 56,2% of Germany’s gas imports coming from Russia before the recent invasion of the latter. Having the strongest and most dynamic economy in the European Union, Germany has consequently the biggest influence in the other Member States’ economies, generating the so-called “Butterfly Effect”, in which it is implied that the stronger the german economy is, the better for the European Union Market, and vice-versa.

Current Challenges from the German perspective and what it means for Europe

The present energetic dependency of  Russia is one of the biggest challenges that Germans will have to face, where its citizens will be called for an active participation, starting by reducing gas consumption at home, as solicited  several times by the current chancellor Olaf Scholz. Despite currently having their gas storage at 92%, Germany needs to replace its gas import’s approach  for the upcoming winters, in order  to formulate a long-term strategy towards its Russian gas dependency.  

This dependency’s state can be less impactive if the European Union Member States work with one another. Mainly, it is essential that a clear and strong cooperation between the biggest economies takes place, since it will consequently affect the rest of the Union. France and Germany, the two countries that currently have the biggest gas storage capacity, are in a call for cooperation that has not been so easy in the last few months, where tensions between these two nations have been developing and directly affecting the European Union identity. Such friction between these two nations was  accentuated with the postponed annual Franco-German Summit. In this event, the European Union Energy package was to be discussed. The decline of cooperation also accelerates through the exchange of words between figures of both countries. In a recent conference, the current President of “Mouvement des Entreprises de France”, Geoffroy Roux de Bezieux, accused Germany- more precisely the Merkle’s Administration- of being the most responsible actor of the current energy crisis, when in 2011 Germany started the transition from nuclear to renewable energy, which in Roux de Bezieux eyes, comes with the cost of increasing gas importation, coming primarily from Russia. Therefore, the lack of talks and transparency between Berlin and Paris is leading to a direct negative effect on the energy crisis management.

Despite the lack of consensus within the EU Member States, coupled with the absence of energy action unanimity in the last meetings between the respective Ministers of Energy, Germany, mainly through its chancellor, has searched for actions in order to  mitigate the Russian dependency, establishing national policies, such as reviving coal unities in order to substitute the usage of gas power plants, as well as postponing the scheduled exit from nuclear energy, now delayed to 2023.

Regardless of Scholz current statements being in favour of a united European Union towards the energy crisis, the evidence proves that reality is somewhat different. As described by Euractiv, Germany´s €200 billion rescue package to support its own companies during the energy crisis could be interpreted as a unilateral strategic move to gain competitive advantage in the single market, rather than  an initiative that seeks to benefit the rest of the Member States. The preference given to this approach  has raised  accusations from other European countries, such as Poland, that according to Euractiv, accused Germany of “destroying the EU’s internal market by subsidising its own businesses while opposing a pan-European cap on gas prices.”

Reflecting on this statement, one could highlight a central problem that runs through the EU and that the energy crisis brought to the spotlight once again: that the consensus and cooperation between European Union Member States in moments of great adversity is still reluctant. This lack of will to cooperate contributes to the weakness of the European Union objective, leaving its citizens questioning if the EU project is still operated  by the same values that were shared when this institution was first formed.

This article was first published in the issue 37 of the magazine

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