EU Commissioner Josep Borrell warned on Sunday that Russia has done far more to build resistance to Western sanctions than the European Union has done to increase its response power against the Kremlin’s threat of disrupting gas supplies to the bloc.
The admission sparked calls in the Netherlands for the country to leave the EU and act independently on foreign policies.
Nexit Denktank campaigners blasted: “EU foreign affairs chief Josep Borrell says Russia has become immune to Western sanctions.
“The bureaucrat adds that sanctions against Russia will be more negative for the EU, because of Russian counter-sanctions.
“Another failure for the EU on the world stage.
“The Netherlands would be much better off conducting its own foreign policy.
“Then it’s up to us anyway. Russia and China have much more respect for us as an independent country than when the EU keeps holding our hand.
“The EU cannot make a fist on the world stage. We do.
Mr Borrell wrote in his blog: “In recent years, Russia has increased its resilience in the face of economic sanctions…it has done more than we have done to deal with potential gas supply disruptions.”
It comes as EU Commission President said that the European Union is talking to the United States and other suppliers about boosting gas deliveries to Europe amid concern over supply from Russia.
She said: “We are building a partnership for energy security with the United States, which is primarily about more LNG gas supplies.
“We are talking to other gas suppliers, for example Norway, about increasing their supplies to Europe.”
Escalating tensions between the West and Moscow over Ukraine have raised concerns about Russian gas flows to Europe. Prices have soared to record levels in recent months amid factors including lower-than-expected imports from Russia.
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Europe’s gas storage is around 10 percent less than usual for the time of year. Gazprom has said it is fulfilling all long-term contracts, but has been accused by EU officials and the International Energy Agency of contributing to an undersupply to Europe amid the standoff over Ukraine.
Von der Leyen said it was “strange” that Gazprom appeared uninterested in increasing gas supplies to Europe, despite record high prices and huge demand.
“There are increasing signs that the Kremlin is continuing to use gas supplies as a means of exerting political pressure,” she said.
Russia supplies around 40 percent of EU gas. The potential impact on that supply if Russia invades Ukraine has prompted an EU drive to increase supplies from other countries.
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Senior EU and US officials are meeting in Washington DC today for talks on liquefied natural gas. EU talks are also ongoing with major gas producer Qatar, and EU energy chief Kadri Simson visited Azerbaijan last week.
The EU has said its storage infrastructure and ability to import more LNG should buffer countries against major shocks, although analysts say a full halt to Russian supply would also require emergency measures like factory closures.
Von der Leyen said gas prices could stay stuck at high levels. Most EU countries have rolled out tax breaks, subsidies and other measures to shield consumers from higher bills in response to the recent price surge.
“It cannot be ruled out that gas prices could remain at a high level for a while,” she said.