Good morning. Europe should crack down on Russian oil entering the EU after being refined in India into products such as diesel, the EU’s chief diplomat told me. The EU and US are stepping up sanctions alignment and Brussels is being forced to delay or revise parts of its environmental agenda ahead of European elections in June.
Today, I have more from Josep Borrell on how EU countries should make offers, not preach, to developing countries they want to befriend, and our energy correspondent explains why the billions being ploughed into new gas infrastructure might never be needed.
A la carte
Europe needs to tailor its outreach to individual countries in the developing world and accept they won’t pick sides in a tussle between the west versus the rest, the EU’s chief diplomat Josep Borrell told me in an interview.
Context: Russia’s war in Ukraine has highlighted Europe’s limited sway over large parts of the globe, where concerns over food and energy supplies disrupted by the conflict have outweighed condemnation of the invasion. The majority of non-EU countries refuse to provide military support to Ukraine or join western sanctions on Moscow.
“Latin America, Africa, the Indo-Pacific: the three big regions of the world. We can’t take for granted that they are on our side,” Borrell said. “They are hedging. They will take advantage of one side or another. It is a lot of work and is not going to be solved overnight.”
Borrell’s comments come three days ahead of a crucial summit of G7 leaders in Japan that will seek to find ways to convince developing countries to join them in condemning Russia’s war.
“We cannot be passive,” said Borrell. “We have to show [developing countries] that our purpose is not to block their development.”
“On the contrary, we want to [support] their development, but we want to be sure that it is not being done against our values and interest, and it has to be done in accordance with international law. This has to be our message,” he said.
China’s support for Russia, and moves by the US to steer the G7 coalition towards tougher policies regarding China, have raised some concerns in Europe of a bipolar world, with two competing blocs led by Washington and Beijing.
“There is a risk of a much more fragmented world, certainly . . . [countries] trying to attract as many people on their side,” Borrell said. “I don’t think it is in our interest in having the world divided in two technological systems completely closed to each other.”
Chart du jour: Another round
Turkey’s leader Recep Tayyip Erdoğan defeated opposition candidate Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu in Sunday’s presidential election. But as both failed to gain more than 50 per cent of votes, there will be a run-off at the end of the month with Erdoğan appearing set to win.
All that gas
A new report shows that despite ploughing billions into new fossil infrastructure, Europe is on an “irreversible” path away from fossil fuels, writes Alice Hancock.
Context: The dramatic cuts to Europe’s gas supplies by Russia following its invasion of Ukraine prompted a rush of investments into infrastructure to help replace those imports, such as liquefied gas terminals.
But falling oil and gas consumption “questions the need to build new gas infrastructure in Europe”, said Neil Makaroff, director of the Brussels-based think-tank Strategic Perspectives.
By 2030, oil and gas consumption in the EU will each have fallen by a third, according to figures from Strategic Perspectives published today.
Fossil fuel infrastructure “won’t be necessary in the future as Europe won’t be an attractive market for gas, coal and oil suppliers in coming years”, Makaroff said.
This sentiment is apparently shared by European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen, who yesterday said in the European parliament that the “growth model centred on fossil fuels is simply obsolete”.
What about those investments then?
Politicians argue that as gas demand tails off, much of the infrastructure can be made “hydrogen-ready” so that it can be used in the future for supplies of “green” hydrogen made using renewable power. Engineers, however, have disputed whether this is feasible or cost-effective.
In any case, gas consumption is projected to fall even if energy gets cheaper. The report said that in a low prices scenario, the gas consumption in Europe would decrease by almost a third — or the total consumption of Germany in the prewar year 2021. It could drop further with measures to improve energy efficiency of houses and industry.
And in good news for consumers, the authors also said that the push for renewables would mean energy bills would decrease by about a quarter by 2030.
What to watch today
EU and European country leaders hold a two-day Council of Europe summit in Reykjavik.
EU finance ministers meet.
EU-India trade and technology council convenes for the first time.