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«Gas issue»: no one can stay two-faced for long

The high share of the issue of Russian gas supplies to the EU in the media of various countries reflects not only the growing controversy between them, but at the same time the cardinal changes in ensuring energy security of European countries. In the recent decade, the EU has been moving in two directions in energy policy: reducing dependence on one supplier (Russia) and expanding the use of alternative energy sources with the prospect of implementing a large "green transition".

Russia's special operation in Ukraine contributes significantly to the acceleration of these processes, but does not mean breaking the EU's strategic line. Deputy Chairman of the European Commission F. Timmermans in one of his speeches noted that "the EU must end this dependence as soon as possible, and much faster than we have done before this war".

Despite the fact that the media predominantly interpret the EU's steps in the energy sector as a break with Russia, this kind of approach is extremely simplified. The REPowerEU plan is much more informative and less emotionally saturated, which reflects current trends in approaches to solving existing problems and outlines of the future energy policy of Brussels.

The REPowerEU provides for measures in three areas: diversification of supplies, energy savings and green energy. Energy saving is a logical tactical step that lies on the surface, is the least expensive and allows to partially take control of the situation. The EC's proposal to reduce consumption by 15% for all EU member states fully fits into its concept. The reaction that followed from different countries within the association indicates that the approval of the plan meant its stage-by-stage, not instant, implementation. It is obvious that events in the energy sector are developing at such an accelerated pace that implementing intentions in practice requires more stringent and, remarkably, centralized approaches.

Russia, despite the harsh rhetoric, remains in the status of only an "unreliable", however, supplier of energy resources to the EU. In addition, in the EU itself, the stance of the countries with respect to Russia are far from unity. Along with that, the widespread interpretation of the fault in the EU due to Russia only partially corresponds to reality. Rather, we are talking about realizing that the paradigm of interaction with partners has exhausted itself and requires transformation.

In this regard, diversification has now entered the EU agenda on a permanent basis. Brussels is making great efforts to find new partners who could supply gas and oil to the EU. As it turned out, despite its solvency, the EU faces exactly the same challenges as states that do not have such weight in the international arena. This area is the most problematic area in a crisis situation and therefore is not so actively discussed in the media. The search for partners who will be able to fill the gaps in gas supplies requires fulfilling several conditions – ensuring an acceptable price, the availability of infrastructure and, most importantly, having an image corresponding to the EU's mental map. As the practice of recent months has shown, none of these conditions is impossible in the short term.

Of particular interest is the last point, the solution of which will decide the future model of EU cooperation with external partners. By the will of fate or evil fate, most countries with natural resources are not among the democratic ones. Moreover, they have serious problems with ensuring human rights – a cornerstone issue in the EU partnership strategy. However, in the current conditions, as it turned out, this part may also be subject to revision.

The most noteworthy is the wording proposed in the comments to the Joint Agreement on Strategic Partnership with the Persian Gulf countries (May 2022). "Despite the fact that human rights problems persist, the sincere and open relations established between the EU and the Gulf have given way to the developing a dialogue on human rights with a number of countries, some of which for the first time".

It is obvious that the energy diversification issue is much deeper and affects the sphere of the EU ideological modeling in the new conditions. In addition, it is directly involved in the confrontation between democratic states and authoritarian ones. No doubt that the EU is entering a period when it will have to act under external pressure, the dictatorship of which will only increase. The high benchmark of requirements that was set in the previous decade will require building such a model that would save face and honor with maximum account of interests of the partners.

It is becoming more and more difficult to overshadow the emerging dilemma for a long time; therefore, at the same time, the media is fueling the topic that the EU is resolving not its own problems, but on a global scale.

Thus, the EU has made a double bid – for the formation of a new EU energy ecosystem and the transformation of energy links on a global scale. The key characteristics of the new EU energy model will obviously be an expanded membership, the redistribution of shares between suppliers, and the gradual expansion of the use of renewable energy sources. The relevance and justification of such actions is clear. However, energy diversification threatens to develop into a sensitive ideological area, for it already demonstrates multiplier effects in various spheres both on internal and external spaces.

The global level expects creation of a kind of energy coalition with democratized oil, gas, minerals, etc. Meanwhile, ambitious plans at the global level are based on a clearly losing relevance Eurocentric approach. The tactical steps taken by Brussels have one extremely vulnerable point – they do not contain proposals for partners, but only old schemes and stereotypes.

Today, there is a clear request for a new configuration of approaches, where configuration will be set not by one user and depending on his wishes, but take into account the interests, place, role and contribution of each state to ensuring stability and the potential for building the future.

The "gas issue" exposed and actualized the theme of double standards, arrogance and strategic "blindness" of individual representatives of European elites. The entry into the gas tunnel is proceeding at an accelerated pace, however, there may be a situation where both exits may be closed.