Merkel defends 2008 decision to block Ukraine from NATO

Former German chancellor Angela Merkel on Monday defended her 2008 decision to block Ukraine from immediately joining NATO, rejecting President Volodymyr Zelensky's criticism as Russia's invasion clouds her 16-year legacy.

Angela Merkel (CDU) attends a vote to elect the new German President in Feburary in Berlin
Angela Merkel (CDU) attends a vote to elect the new German President in Feburary in Berlin. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Christophe Gateau

Zelensky in a night-late address had described as a “miscalculation” a Franco-German-led decision at the NATO summit in Bucharest to not admit his country to the alliance despite a push from the United States.

“I invite Ms Merkel and Mr (Nicolas) Sarkozy to visit Bucha and see what the policy of concessions to Russia has led to in 14 years,” he said, referring to the alleged atrocities against Ukrainian civilians by Russian troops that world powers have described as “war crimes”.

The Ukrainian president also accused the European leaders of seeking to appease Russia with their stance then.

But Merkel in a short statement issued by her spokeswoman said she “stands by her decisions in relation to the 2008 NATO summit in Bucharest”.

“In view of the atrocities uncovered in Bucha and other places in Ukraine, all efforts by the government and the international community to stand by Ukraine’s side and to bring an end to Russia’s barbarism and war against Ukraine have the former chancellor’s full support,” added the spokeswoman.

Germany had deemed it too early for Ukraine to join NATO in 2008 because it found that the political conditions were not met at that point.

Merkel, who retired from politics late last year after four consecutive terms in power, had once been hailed as the leader of the free world.

But Russian President Vladimir Putin’s war on Ukraine has exposed flaws in her legacy, with critics saying she left Germany and Europe vulnerable with her detente policy towards the Kremlin leader.

Under particular scrutiny is Germany’s reliance on Russian energy, which made up 36 percent of its gas imports in 2014 but which rose to 55 percent by the time of the February 24 invasion.

The dependence on Russian power has left Berlin saying it is unable to follow a call by the US and other allies to impose a full energy embargo on Moscow.


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Gas operators announce level of surcharge for German customers

Gas customers in Germany will face significant additional energy costs from the autumn. The state gas surcharge will be 2.419 cents per kilowatt hour.

Gas operators announce level of surcharge for German customers

On Monday, Trading Hub Europe, a joint venture of German gas transmission system operators, announced a state gas surcharge of 2.419 cents per kilowatt hour.

The levy, which is intended to benefit gas suppliers who have had to find more expensive alternatives to Russian gas supply, will apply from the beginning of October. 

READ ALSO: How Germany is saving energy ahead of uncertain winter

For a single-family household with an annual consumption of 20,000 kilowatt hours, the additional cost would therefore amount to around €484 a year, before VAT. However, the German government wants to prevent VAT from becoming charged on the tax levy.

The levy had been expected for some time, and the Ministry of Economics had predicted that the surcharge would fall between the range of 1.5 to 5 cents per kilowatt hour. The additional 2.419 cents, therefore, falls in the lower range of the expected cost.

The Ministry of Economics sees the levy as a consequence of the Russian war in Ukraine. Since mid-June, Russia has reduced its gas imports to Germany in an unpredictable manner, which has created an energy shortage and driven up prices.

READ ALSO: ‘Winter of rage’: Experts warn of riots in Germany due to rising energy costs

This “external shock” is particularly affecting Germany, which has so far been heavily dependent on cheap gas from Russia. 

The levy, which will apply from the beginning of October, will not be immediately visible on customers’ bills. For consumer protection reasons, announcement periods of four to six weeks must be followed by the Energy Industry, meaning the additional charge will probably first appear on bills in November or December.