BRUSSELS - Agence France-Presse
European Union nations have agreed to help each other meet gas shortages in a severe crisis, officials said April 27 as they seek to depend less on Russia.
Neighboring EU states will cooperate to ensure supplies for households and essential services such as hospitals if there are major shortages under the plans.
The plan will be used as a “last resort” after all other emergency measures have been exhausted, said the European Council, which groups the 28 member states.
“The legislation will make a major contribution to our energy security,” said Malta’s energy minister Konrad Mizzi, whose country holds the bloc’s rotating presidency.
“It will reduce our dependency on others for our energy supplies and enable us to deal more quickly and efficiently with any gas supply crises,” Mizzi added.
The draft plans were backed by EU diplomats and the European Parliament on Thursday but are yet to be rubberstamped by member states.
The gas plan is part of a longstanding bid to consolidate energy supplies following winter shortages in previous years and amid tensions with Russia, Europe’s biggest gas supplier.
The idea is to divide the EU into regional groups, in which member states would help each other out when there are gas shortages.
In disputes in 2006 and 2009, Moscow cut supplies to Ukraine
during the winter, sparking knock-on shortages in Europe, especially in many of the former communist eastern states which still depend on Russia
for nearly all their energy needs.
Fears that Moscow’s could turn off the taps again were raised after Russia’s annexation of Crimea from Ukraine
and the start of a conflict between pro-Kremlin rebels in eastern Ukraine
and government forces in 2014.
The EU relies on Russia
for about a third of its gas supplies, with half of that amount transiting through Ukraine.