The European Union could buy emergency gas reserves from Russia as a bloc under plans being considered by Brussels to protect people from record-breaking energy prices.
EU sources said the idea was among several being looked at. The common purchase of gas reserves would be similar to the bloc’s joint procurement strategy for buying coronavirus vaccines.
The European Commission negotiated for jabs on behalf of the EU member states, which were thought to get a better price by negotiating as a bloc of 450 million consumers than they could individually.
Josep Borrell, the EU’s chief diplomat, said yesterday that Spain was among the member states pushing for joint procurement and common gas storage. France, Romania, Greece and the Czech Republic also support the plans, which are at a very early stage.
“We continue to have a need for Russian gas and we will probably need more than that contracted. That is why Spain proposes, quite rightly, that the negotiation be done not country by country, but as a whole, as has been done with vaccines,” he told the El Pais newspaper.
“We are facing an emergency situation. And the gas supply problem has a geopolitical dimension,” he added, in a veiled reference to strained relations with Russia.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has suggested gas supplies could be increased .
Europe is heavily dependent on Russian supplies with state-owned Gazprom supplying the bloc with 35 per cent of its gas. Despite that, plans for joint procurement on energy are likely to face opposition from some member countries.
Vladimir Chizhov, the Kremlin’s ambassador to the EU, told the Financial Times that gas supplies could be increased if Brussels stopped treating Russia as “an adversary”.
Record gas prices dropped last week after Vladimir Putin suggested last week that Gazprom could increase supplies and his deputy prime minister said clearing the controversial North Stream 2 pipeline would help ease the crisis.
On Wednesday, the commission will publish a "toolbox" for national governments to curb the impact of the price hike.
The measures are expected to include cutting VAT on electricity bills, subsidies to the poorest household and long term tariff regulations for the most vulnerable.