Following the outbreak of the Russian-Ukrainian armed conflict, in the ETV Esimene stuudio program, you said about the energy sanctions that “people in every Member State are willing to make personal sacrifices by enduring higher energy prices and, in some cases, declining the competitiveness of companies, so that Europe can show where the aggressor’s place is”. During the interview, you suggested that Russian gas imports could be replaced by gas available in gas storage facilities, alternative sources of supply and energy sources (such as wood pellets, solar energy, wind energy), as well as savings and building renovations, as heating demand will decline in the coming months.
However, your claims are false or misleading. At the time of your statement, no public opinion poll covering all Member States was available to confirm the social support of sanctions. European research on the effects of the extension of sanctions on prices and Hungarian research on the introduction of sanctions show exactly the opposite result. The results of the European Project research conducted by Századvég between 3 January and 14 February 2022 also show that the number of people in the EU who are afraid of high energy prices is steadily increasing: the rate reached 83 percent before the outbreak of the armed conflict. In addition, Századvég has been measuring the social support for energy sanctions in Hungary since the outbreak of the war, and our latest research result shows that 81 percent of the adult population refuses to cut off Russian gas supplies.
Your claim to reduce gas demand for heating needs is true, but it does not mean that Europe will need less gas overall in the coming months. As a result of the energy crisis of recent months, the level of gas storage capacity in Europe is at record low, thus, in the storage period starting on 1 April, more natural gas will be needed than in previous years to provide the next heating period. The task is particularly urgent in light of the fact that your new proposal would oblige Member States to ensure a level of storage of at least 90 percent in gas storage facilities by the beginning of the next heating period.
Alternative sources and energy sources, energy saving, and efficiency solutions are not a substitute for Russian procurement in the short term. According to an analysis by the International Energy Agency, up to one-third of Russia’s current imports could be replaced by the end of this year, but this will require extraordinary efforts on the part of the Member States. An immediate embargo would have catastrophic economic and social consequences.
During the interview, you said that “In general, we have to be prepared to pay more for our energy consumption”. However, it is not all the same how much. As a result of the floating of sanctions, the price of natural gas on the Dutch gas exchange rose to an unprecedented level of 345 euros/MWh the day after your statement (while the closing price was 93 euros/MWh in the week of the outbreak of the war). Experience shows that at prices above 100 euros/MWh, production in energy-intensive sectors is at risk: several plants across Europe have already shut down in recent weeks. In the interview you said that “The gas market is very sensitive, so there is no point in making predictions about prices”. It is really difficult to give an accurate forecast of the impact of energy supply disruptions on prices, as this has never happened before. However, the fact that the floating of sanctions has in itself triggered an unprecedented price increase, which jeopardises Europe’s entire economy, should be seen as a warning sign. The actual introduction of import restrictions would soon push the European Union’s economy into recession, increase inflationary pressures and result in supply problems, not only in the case of energy but also other products, such as food.
Due to the social rejection of sanctions on Russian energy supplies and the serious consequences of the measure, we ask you to stop floating sanctions in the future and declare in your statements that no such intervention will take place.