European Union countries are seeking to ease the bloc’s plan to force them to use less gas as Europe braces for a winter of uncertain supplies from its main gas supplier, Russia.
The European Commission proposed last week that the 27 EU member states each cut their gas consumption by 15% from August to March.
The target would be voluntary, but the Commission could make it binding in the event of a gas supply emergency.
Brussels has urged countries to reduce gas use now to help fill storage before winter and warned that a complete Russian gas cut is likely. But the EU plan has met resistance from a slew of governments, with some adamantly opposed to binding cuts and others refusing to let Brussels control their energy use.
Diplomats from EU countries will discuss a revised proposal on Monday. The proposal, seen by Reuters, would maintain the voluntary target for all countries to reduce gas consumption, but set different mandatory targets.
The latest proposal, drafted by the Czech Republic, which currently chairs EU national meetings, offers a series of exemptions from the binding target to use less gas.
Countries not connected to EU gas networks would be exempted – which could cover island countries such as Ireland and Malta – and those with large volumes of stored gas could face lower targets to curb the request.
States exporting gas to other countries could also face lower targets, likely including Spain, which is not dependent on Russia for gas and has been among the strongest opponents of the proposal. of the EU. Critical sectors such as chemicals and steel could also be exempted.
The new proposal puts national governments rather than the Commission in charge of the process of making the target binding, which could only be done with majority support from countries.
Diplomats from EU countries had mixed views on the latest draft, with some welcoming it and others concerned about the large number of exemptions.
Energy ministers will try to approve it on Tuesday. The proposal must be approved by a reinforced majority of at least 15 EU countries to become law.