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ENERGY

Germany raps US over ‘astronomical’ gas prices

Germany's economy minister on Wednesday accused countries including the US of charging too much for gas as Europe's biggest economy struggles to rebalance its energy mix without Russian supplies.

Economics Minister Robert Habeck
Economics Minister Robert Habeck (Greens) sits in parliament during a vote on nuclear energy. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Kay Nietfeld

“Some countries, even friendly ones, are achieving astronomical prices in some cases,”

Robert Habeck told the Neue Osnabruecker Zeitung newspaper. “This naturally brings problems with it, which we have to talk about,” he said.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has caused a dramatic energy crisis in Germany, which previously relied on Moscow for 55 percent of gas deliveries.

Russia has been gradually squeezing supplies since invading Ukraine in what Berlin believes is retaliation for its support for Kyiv.

To fill the gap, Berlin is investing in more expensive liquefied natural gas (LNG).

Germany and other European countries have thus turned to the United States, which now provides 45 percent of European LNG imports — up from 28 percent in 2021.

“The US turned to us when oil prices shot up, and as a result national oil reserves were also tapped in Europe,” Habeck said. “I think such solidarity would also be good for curbing gas prices.”

Habeck also called on the EU to coordinate gas purchases to help bring prices down.

The bloc should “bundle its market power and orchestrate smart and synchronised purchasing behaviour among EU states so that individual EU countries do not outbid each other and drive up world market prices”, he said.

Germany last week announced a 200-billion-euro ($199-billion) fund to shield consumers from soaring energy prices.

However, the plan has been criticised by France and key members of the European Commission, who are calling for EU-wide solutions to the energy crunch.

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GERMANY AND RUSSIA

Scholz urges Putin to withdraw troops for ‘diplomatic’ end to war

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz on Friday pressed Russia's President Vladimir Putin to seek a diplomatic solution to end his war in Ukraine, including troop withdrawals, Berlin said following a call between the two.

Scholz urges Putin to withdraw troops for 'diplomatic' end to war

“The chancellor urged the Russian president to come as quickly as possible to a diplomatic solution including the withdrawal of Russian troops,” according to the German leader’s spokesman Steffen Hebestreit.

During the one-hour call, Scholz “condemned in particular the Russian airstrikes against civilian infrastructure in Ukraine and stressed Germany’s determination to support Ukraine in ensuring the defence capability against Russian aggression”.

On Russia’s end, Vladimir Putin told Scholz that Moscow’s attacks on Ukraine’s infrastructure were “inevitable” and accused the West of pursuing “destructive” policies. 

“It was noted that the Russian Armed Forces had long refrained from precision missile strikes against certain targets on the territory of Ukraine,” the Kremlin said in a statement following the discussion. 

The leaders also discussed the issue of global food security, which is under pressure because of the war.

They also agreed to “remain in contact”, said Hebestreit.

Scholz and Putin have been in regular phone contact through the war.

The previous call between them took place in September and lasted 90 minutes, with Scholz then also urging Putin to “come to a diplomatic solution as possible, based on a ceasefire”.

‘Return to the pre-war peace order’

Despite his firm line on the war in Ukraine, the Chancellor drew sideways glances this week after telling the Berlin Security Conference there was a “willingness” to solve common security issues with Russia. 

“We can come back to a peace order that worked and make it safe again if there is a willingness in Russia to go back to this peace order,” Scholz said, according to reports by Times correspondent Oliver Moody. 

Scholz had prefaced his comments with a reference to Russia’s “imperialist” tendencies, which he said reflected the approach of the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries, “where a stronger country just thinks it can take the territory of a neighbour, understanding neighbours as just hinterland, and some place they can give rules to be followed.”

“That can never be accepted,” he added. 

He also blamed Russia for destroying the European peace order that countries had worked on “for decades”. 

Nevertheless, commentators accused the SPD politician of stubbornly sticking to Germany’s historical appeasement of Russia rather than recognising the realities of the present day. 

On Wednesday, German MPs also passed a motion to recognise the starvation of millions of Ukrainians in the 1930s under Russian dictator Joseph Stalin as ‘genocide’. 

Parliamentarians described the move as a “warning” to Russia as Ukraine faces a potential hunger crisis this winter due to Moscow’s invasion.

READ ALSO: Germany recognises Stalin famine in Ukraine as ‘genocide’

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