Report: Europe still relying on Russian gas

Some countries, like Austria and France, are bound by long-term contracts with Russian providers that are challenging to terminate prematurely.

Despite public commitments to reduce reliance on Russian energy, many European countries continue to indirectly import significant volumes of Russian gas, raising questions about the effectiveness of sanctions and energy diversification efforts.

Italy, which recently hosted the G7 summit, exemplifies this complex situation. While Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni has positioned herself as pro-EU and pro-NATO, Italy’s energy landscape tells a more nuanced story. Although Italy has officially reduced direct gas imports from Russia, it now receives substantial amounts of pipeline gas through Austria, which has paradoxically increased its Russian gas imports from 80% to 98% over the past two years.

This pattern is not unique to Italy. The European Union, led by Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, has sought alternative gas suppliers, notably Azerbaijan. However, this arrangement is complicated by the fact that the key infrastructure for transporting Azerbaijani gas to the EU is partially owned by Lukoil, a Russian energy company under U.S. sanctions. Furthermore, to meet increased EU demand, Azerbaijan has boosted its gas imports from Russia.

The situation is further complicated by deals made between EU members Romania and Hungary with Turkey, a country entirely reliant on gas imports. Experts suggest that much of this gas likely originates from Russia, effectively creating a laundering mechanism for Russian energy through intermediary countries.

Perhaps most concerning is the increase in EU imports of Russian liquefied natural gas (LNG). Data from Bruegel indicates a 37.7% rise in Russian LNG imports between 2021 and 2023, contradicting the narrative of reduced dependency.

Several factors contribute to this ongoing reliance. Some countries, like Austria and France, are bound by long-term contracts with Russian providers that are challenging to terminate prematurely. In other cases, the urgent need for energy has led to the creation of complex supply chains that obscure the original source of gas.

This intricate web of energy transactions highlights the challenges facing European nations as they attempt to balance energy security with geopolitical considerations. As the continent continues to grapple with these issues, questions remain about the true extent of Europe’s energy independence from Russia and the effectiveness of current sanctions and diversification strategies.

The situation underscores the need for a more comprehensive and transparent approach to energy policy within the EU, one that addresses not just direct imports but also the indirect flow of Russian gas through third-party countries.