The European Union is struggling to wean itself from Russian natural gas supplies due to the deep-seated dependence of so many of its member states on this irreplaceable resource from Moscow.
Some countries are trying to fast-track their clean energy transition plans or seek out alternative suppliers, but experts agree that for the bloc as a whole, a complete abandonment of Russian gas is not a probable reality. One country, Hungary, is even looking to strengthen the relationship with its gas provider.
Among EU nations, there are wide gaps between which countries import the most Russian gas in quantity and which are most dependent on the Russian gas they import — and for varying reasons, The Hill decided to take a look at both groups.
These are the EU’s biggest importers of Russian gas in 2021, according to the US Energy Information Agency (EIA).
Germany: 1.70 trillion cubic feet
Italy: 0.92 trillion cubic feet
France: 0.62 trillion cubic feet
Poland: 0.37 trillion cubic feet
These are the EU’s biggest importers of Russian gas in 2020, measured by overall percentage of Russian gas exports, the EIA reported.
As the engines of the continent’s overall economy, Germany, Italy and France are the biggest EU buyers of Russian gas, which they not only use to generate electricity and heat, but also to power their manufacturing industries.
For this reason, German Finance Minister Christian Lindner argued on Monday that a full-scale energy embargo would cause more pain to Germany than it would to Russia. And on Tuesday, the EU included a ban on Russian coal in a fresh round of sanctions, but shied away from banning natural gas and oil thus far.
The countries that are the most reliant on Russian gas, however, varied significantly from those that were importing the largest quantities or highest percentages of the resource over the past few years.
These are the top-10 most relevant countries, according to the European Commission’s Eurostat site.
Some of the countries have a figure above 100 because they import more than required for domestic consumption and export other energy products.
Hungary: 110.4 percent
Latvia: 100.1 percent
Finland: 92.4 percent
Czechia: 86.0 percent
Slovenia: 81.0 percent
Slovakia: 75.2 percent
Of particular interest is Hungary, the nation with the greatest individual reliance on Russian gas. The country’s newly reelected leader, Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, has been swerving between his EU colleagues and his long-standing relationship with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Despite having supported EU sanctions against Russia, Hungary went against the bloc on Wednesday, when Orbán declared that the country would pay for shipments of gas in rubles if Russia asks it to, in response to a question from Reuters.
This statement was in response to Moscow’s recent demands that foreign buyers pay for Russian gas in rubles. The EU objected to these orders, leading a European Commission spokesperson to tell Reuters on Friday that companies with euro or dollar contracts “should not agree to Russian demands.”
Another EU country heavily reliant on Russian gas, Slovakia, confirmed on Sunday that despite rumors to the contrary, it would act in unison with EU member states and continue to pay for gas only in euros.
“In this situation, unity is key and we insist on respecting contract conditions and payments in euros,” Slovakian Prime Minister Eduard Heger wrote in a Facebook post.
But Hungary’s Orbán, whose right-wing nationalist party won reelection just three days ago, not only described Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky as one of his campaign “opponents” during his victory speech, but also received congratulations from Putin, according to CNN.
On Wednesday, just as Orbán declared his country’s willingness to continue paying Moscow for gas in rubles, Hungarian Foreign Minister Péter Szijjártó echoed similar sentiments.
Szijjártó stressed that while Hungary does “condemn military aggression” and “stand by Ukraine’s sovereignty,” the country would be prioritizing the security of the Hungarian people, in a Facebook post translated by the government’s international communications office.
“This is not our war, so we want to stay out of it and we will stay out of it,” Szijjártó wrote. “So we will not deliver weapons and we will not vote for energy sanctions.”