Beyond dependence: How to deal with Russian gas

Could building a single European market in natural gas be the most effective strategy for the European Union in countering Russia’s divisive energy diplomacy?


Building a single European market in natural gas is the most effective strategy for the European Union to counter Russia's divisive energy diplomacy, according to a new report authored by Pierre Noel. The analysis is published a few days prior to the release of the EU Strategic Energy Review and the next EU-Russia summit. It also comes two months before the start of the Czech EU presidency, which will work on energy security as one of its priorities.

Based on extensive original research, Pierre Noel's paper shows that the current obsession over the EU's dependence on Russian gas misses the point; instead, the problem is that Russia uses gas to divide and weaken Europe politically. Noel argues that the current EU approach to Russia's energy diplomacy – championing alternative energy sources, encouraging non-Russian gas, and attempting to bind Russia with energy treaties – will be ineffective without a single European market in natural gas.

The recent war between Georgia and Russia has added a sense of urgency to the EU's search for a better Russia policy, fuelling fears that Moscow might use its power as a major energy supplier to blackmail Europeans into submission. Noel's paper argues that such concerns are exaggerated. Russia does not have a monopolistic stranglehold over Europe. Its share of EU gas imports has roughly been halved since 1980, from 80% to 42%. Russian gas represents only 6.5% of the EU's primary energy supply, essentially unchanged in twenty years. And dependence is unlikely to start growing soon as Gazprom is not in a position to increase its exports to Europe significantly.

The European Council on Foreign Relations does not take collective positions. ECFR publications only represent the views of their individual authors.

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