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ENERGY

Germany’s gas storage levels ‘worrying’, warns ministry

Germany's gas stocks have fallen to a "worrying" level, an economy ministry spokeswoman said Wednesday, as fears over a possible invasion of Ukraine by Russia put further pressure on energy supplies.

A person changing the radiator heat level.
A person changing the radiator heat level. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Fabian Sommer

“Of course we are monitoring the situation of the storage levels and that is certainly worrying,” said the spokeswoman during a regular government press conference.

Stocks were now at 35-36 percent, under the “critical level” of 40 percent which the German government deems is necessary to withstand seven straight days of an extreme cold snap.

To overcome a 30-day streak of more moderate cold weather, the storage should be half full.

Stocks never slid below 71 percent in 2020, according to data from the industry group Gas Infrastruture Europe.

With around 40 percent of gas consumed in Europe coming from Russia, Moscow is suspected of taking advantage of the tensions on the world market to reduce supply and drive up prices.

In an interview this week with Die Zeit weekly, EU leader Ursula von der Leyen said that there are “increasingly signs that the Kremlin is using gas deliveries as political leverage.”

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As The Local reported in September last year, gas storage facilities in Germany were filled to around 94 percent ahead of the previous winter. 

At the time, Oliver Krischer, vice chairman of the Green Party in the Bundestag, predicted that Germany could see a gas shortage.

“If it gets really cold in February, important storage facilities are empty and Nord Stream 2 has not been put into operation, regional bottlenecks could occur,” Krischer said. 

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POLITICS

‘Russia must not win this war,’ says Germany’s Scholz

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz pledged once again to stand with Ukraine against Russia - but said Ukraine's bid to join the EU cannot be sped up.

'Russia must not win this war,' says Germany's Scholz

Scholz said the war in Ukraine was the greatest crisis facing the EU in its history, but that solidarity was strong. 

“We are all united by one goal: Russia must not win this war, Ukraine must prevail,” Scholz said in the speech to the Bundestag on Thursday.

Putin thinks he can use bombs to dictate the terms for peace, the SPD politician said. 

“He’s wrong. He was wrong in judging the unity of Ukrainians, and the determination of our alliances. Russia will not dictate peace because the Ukrainians won’t accept it and we won’t accept it.”

Scholz said it was only when Putin understands that he cannot break Ukraine’s defence capability that he would “be prepared to seriously negotiate peace”.

For this, he said, it is important to strengthen Ukraine’s defences. 

Scholz also pledged to help cut Europe free from its reliance on Russian energy. 

The Chancellor welcomed the accession of Finland and Sweden to Nato. “With you at our side, Nato, Europe will become stronger and safer,” he said.

However, Scholz dampened expectations for Ukraine’s quick accession to the EU.

“There are no shortcuts on the way to the EU,” Scholz said, adding that an exception for Ukraine would be unfair to the Western Balkan countries also seeking membership.

“The accession process is not a matter of a few months or years,” he said.

Scholz had in April called for Western Balkan countries’ efforts to join the EU to be accelerated amid a “new era” in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Last October, EU leaders at a summit in Slovenia only reiterated their “commitment to the enlargement process” in a statement that disappointed the six candidates for EU membership — Albania, Bosnia, Serbia, Montenegro, North Macedonia and Kosovo – who had hoped for a concrete timetable.

“For years, they have been undertaking intensive reforms and preparing for accession,” Scholz said on Thursday.

“It is not only a question of our credibility that we keep our promises to them. Today more than ever, their integration is also in our strategic interest,” he said.

The chancellor said he would be attending the EU summit at the end of May “with the clear message that the Western Balkans belong in the European Union”.

Scholz also called for other ways to help Ukraine in the short term, saying the priority was to “concentrate on supporting Ukraine quickly and pragmatically”.

France’s President Emmanuel Macron has also said it will take “decades” for a candidate like Ukraine to join the EU, and suggested building a broader political club beyond the bloc that could also include Britain.

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