EU tries to find an “emergency exit”

Monday, 2022-02-07 18:10:23
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Workers operate a gas pipeline system in the town of Boyarka, Kiev region, Ukraine. (File photo: AFP/VNA)
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NDO - The Russia-Ukraine tension, which pushed oil prices up and threatened gas supplies to the European Union (EU), has prompted EU leaders to actively "shuttle diplomacy" to find an “emergency exit” for energy security in Europe.

The French President will visit Russia on February 7 and Ukraine on February 8, while the German Chancellor will visit Ukraine on February 14 and visit Russia on February 15, aiming to cool down the volatile hot spot in the region.

Recent geopolitical tensions in Eastern Europe and the Middle East, along with the strong recovery of the global economy, have led to a sharp increase in world oil prices, of which Brent and WTI prices have increased by 17% and 20%, respectively, from the beginning of 2022 to present. Asian oil prices also surpassed the 90 USD/barrel mark in the morning session of February 4.

Accordingly, the North Sea Brent oil price increased to 91.27 USD/barrel, while the price of US light sweet crude (WTI) rose to $90.55 a barrel, after rising 2.01 USD to more than 90 USD a barrel at the close of the previous session for the first time since October 6, 2014.

According to statistics, the prices of these two key oils are headed for the seventh consecutive week of price increases. Many analysts forecast that geopolitical tensions in Eastern Europe and the Middle East, supply disruptions and limited oil production increase could push the price of “black gold” to triple digits in 2022.

In the above context, EU countries are making efforts to ensure energy security, because Russia provides more than 40% of European gas imports. Western experts are concerned that escalating tensions between Russia and Ukraine will lead to Moscow stopping gas supplies to the EU. Currently, EU leaders are trying to find gas supply alternatives to reduce dependence on Russia.

EU press said that on February 7, the High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Josep Borrell will travel to the US for a bilateral meeting with Secretary of State Antony Blinken to reaffirm the strength of the transatlantic partnership, and to co-chair a meeting of the US-EU Energy Council.

The Council has an important role in promoting cooperation on energy security, so it is expected to help solve the problem of energy supply in the context of the current volatile price.

On February 4, an EU delegation also visited Azerbaijan to promote diversification of energy supplies for the EU. In the capital city of Baku, EU Commissioner for Energy Kadri Simson and Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev co-chaired the annual ministerial meeting of the participating countries in the Southern Gas Corridor (SGC).

The SGC is a complex of three gas pipelines connecting Azerbaijan, Georgia, Turkey, Greece, Albania and the Adriatic Sea to Italy. Completed in 2020, the network aims to reduce dependence on Russian gas. After the above meeting, Kadri Simson emphasised that the SGC is a strategy for the EU's energy diversification policy and supply security, and affirmed that this corridor is a “great success”.

In addition to finding new gas supplies, EU leaders are also trying to cool down the "hot spot" of tensions in Russia-Ukraine relations amid concerns about military escalation in the region. According to recently announced plan, French President Emmanuel Macron will visit Russia and Ukraine, hold talks with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin in Moscow February 7 and meet Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in Kiev on February 8. The purpose of this visit is to make progress in "de-escalating tensions" between Russia and Ukraine.

Meanwhile, EU press said that German Chancellor Olaf Scholz will also have a meeting with US President Joe Biden on February 7 in Washington on the occasion of a meeting of “Group of Seven” industrialised nations. After this meeting, the German Chancellor will visit Ukraine on February 14 and then Russia on February 15, to discuss the current tensions between the West and Russia over the crisis in Ukraine.

Sharing the same view of goodwill as the leaders of France and Germany, Italian Foreign Minister Di Maio has also emphasised that the West needs to make efforts to avoid a spiral of escalation that can reduce the effectiveness of political and diplomatic initiatives.

EU countries are trying to find an “emergency exit” for energy, first of all for the sake of the EU itself. However, the above-mentioned diplomatic moves to reduce tensions are important to help the parties, especially Russia and the US, keep a “cool head” in controlling the “Ukrainian gunpowder barrel” which is at risk of breaking out into a war that could plunge both Europe and the global economy into a new crisis.

Translated by NDO