Europe stalls on bilateral gas solidarity agreements
EU member states are behind schedule with bilateral agreements on how to help each other out in case of severe gas disruptions in the bloc, reports Steven Hanke for Tagesspiegel Background. EU solidarity rules stipulate that countries must enter these deals, but since the European Commission introduced infringement procedures in 2020 against all member states for not putting the relevant regulation in effect, only six bilateral agreements were concluded. These were in the Baltic states, between Germany and Denmark, Germany and Austria, and between Italy and Slovenia. The German government said in February that it was in “far advanced” negotiations with Italy and Poland, but no agreement has been concluded yet. Germany also plans to sign an agreement with the Czech Republic before the coming winter. The agreements will regulate in detail how the partners can help each other quickly – for example, industrial customers in one country could have their gas cut off in exchange for compensation, in order to prevent private households in another country from being cut off.
In recent years the EU introduced rules that “put solidarity first when it comes to dealing with disruptions to gas supply.” The solidarity principle stipulates that, in the event of a severe gas crisis, neighbouring member states will help to ensure gas supply to households and essential social services. EU countries are required to put in place the necessary technical, legal and financial arrangements to make the provision of ‘solidarity gas’ possible in practice, and must therefore conclude bilateral agreements with their neighbours. The first bilateral solidarity agreement was signed between Germany and Denmark on 14 December 2020 and a second by Germany and Austria on 2 December 2021.