WHAT’S NEW(S) – RUBLES-FOR-GAS? – 06/05/22
Écrit par Team BXL sur 6 mai 2022
What´s New(s)? La revue de presse anglophone – Erik Ruiz Martín & Nadine Vermeulen
Europe finally seems to decouple itself from Russia’s gas supplies, while an embargo on Russian oil was under discussion this week. Meanwhile, European companies fear for deep trouble with Moscow threatening them to pay in rubles.
What did the European press write about the Commission’s new proposal?
POLITICO published that the European Commission has proposed to phase Russian oil out by the end of the year, and states that income from energy exports has been critical for financing Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Euractiv flagged that the ban on oil was made possible after a U-turn by Germany, which had said the measure would do too much harm to its economy. Euronews predicts that for the energy sector the next months will be difficult. The phase out of Russian oil will be part of the sixth pack of sanctions, says Deutsche Welle. The only uncertainty, once again, is if Hungary will join the sanctions. Hungary Today quoted Foreign Minister Péter Szijjárto, who said that the Hungarian economy “cannot physically operate without Russian oil”, adding that the national government is protecting national interests first and foremost, and “does not care about what people in the East or in the West” think.
And what do journalists predict about the outcome of the ruble-for-gas game? Will European companies be able to stick to the EU sanctions or fall in Putin’s trap?
According to the Times of Malta, the EU warned member states Monday to prepare for a possible complete breakdown in gas supplies from Russia, insisting it would not cede to Moscow’s demand that imports be paid for in rubles. Some member states are showing themselves reluctant and have asked the Commission for more clarity, Hannah Roberts in POLITICO, highlights that Italy has asked the Commission to be clear about how companies can pay for Russian gas without breaching the sanctions. Bloomberg has disclosed that four European gas buyers already made ruble payments to Russia. A Russian cut of gas supplies would not be that much of a surprise since, as El País states, Russia has already cut its supplies to Poland and Bulgaria over their refusal to pay in rubles.
But to implement its plans, the European Union will depend a lot on Germany, who, as mentioned, has taken a U-turn from its hesitant stance in the full embargo debate. What does the German press write on the consequences for the country?
Indeed, Germany has steadily shifted its stance in the oil-embargo debate in its determination to stop Russia. “How Germany surprised Europe” headline Der Spiegel, moving from a reluctant stance to driving force behind the oil boycott. But even if Germany finally agreed to share the burden of cutting its use of Russian oil and gas supplies, German politicians are still urging the EU to be cautious and prepare the move properly, wrote Financial Times. De Tagesschau quoted German Foreign Minister Baerbock, who predicted that “the country may not get back on its feet economically for years”. Until recently, 35 percent of Germany’s oil came from Russia, wrote the media outlet. Even if now, this is only 12 percent, thanks to new supply contracts; the economic consequences for the country will be enormous. Especially eastern Germany will be hit hard by the embargo, estimates WDR, because its relatively high dependency on Russian oil compared to the West.
And meanwhile, Sergei Lavrov made yet another extremely controversial statement in the European media.. What did he say to create outrage this time?
Well, in an attempt to justify Russia’s portrayal of Ukraine as a ‘Nazi’ country, Lavrov claimed that Adolf Hitler actually had Jewish blood. When asked how Russia can justify that it started the invasion to de-nazify Ukraine, the minister answered: “I could be wrong, but Hitler also had Jewish blood. [That Zelensky is Jewish] means absolutely nothing. Wise Jewish people say that the most ardent anti-Semites are usually Jews.” His statement was met with fury across the political spectrum in Israel and beyond, underlined the BBC. The US State Department spokesman said Lavrov’s comments showed “the lowest form of racism” and “insidious lies”. Meanwhile the European Commission warned European media not to give time nor importance to Russian propaganda and false information.
Presentation and sound and editing : Nadine Vermeulen
Image credit : Wallpaperflare