After the announcement that Russia has stopped gas supplies to Poland and Bulgaria on Wednesday, Federal Energy Minister Tinne Van Der Straeten said that Belgium is “fully prepared” for the impact of that decision.
Belgium is also expected to feel the consequences of the threat by Russian President Vladimir Putin, while energy prices already are at a record high. For the time being, however, there is “no impact on the Belgian supply of natural gas,” Van Der Straeten’s cabinet said.
Belgium is a hub for gas supplies to the EU, but only has a very small share of Russian gas (6%) for its own consumption. Additionally, the port of Zeebrugge is an asset, with more than enough capacity to import liquefied natural gas (LNG) from other countries.
Currently, there are no elements to set the “early warning” phase of the national Natural Gas Emergency Plan in Belgium, stressed by Van der Straeten. “The situation is serious, but Belgium is fully prepared.”
“This sad escalation by Russia shows once again how European dependence on fossil fuels is being used as a weapon. The prices of fossil fuels are rising again. High prices that put Belgian families, businesses and our industry under pressure,” she said. “Accelerating the energy transition is more essential than ever.”
Poland and Bulgaria are no longer receiving Russian gas since 00:08 on Wednesday morning “due to their failure to pay in rubles,” Gazprom announced the Russian state gas company.
Ukraine and allies have called the move “blackmail” and another attempt “to divide our allies.” Meanwhile, the price of gas is skyrocketing.
Last month, Putin already stated that Russia would only accept payments in rubles for its gas, but as per the EU, this is a violation of the sanctions imposed on the country.
Additionally, the Russian decision to stop gas supply to Bulgaria as well as Poland is remarkable: while Poland has always openly opposed Russian demands for payment in rubles, Bulgaria has always remained on the sidelines of the conflict. The country did not send any weapons or other military aid to Ukraine either.
In the meantime, President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen called the stop in gas delivery to customers in the EU “yet another attempt by Russia to use gas as an instrument of blackmail.”