The European Commission has proposed introducing a voluntary 15 percent cut in target gas usage for European Union member states in case of a cutoff of Russian flows of the fuel to Europe.
"We have to prepare for a potential full disruption of Russian gas, and this is a likely scenario," European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen told journalists in Brussels on July 20.
The EU has imposed tough sanctions on Russia following its unprovoked invasion of Ukraine in February, prompting Moscow to reduce energy deliveries to several members of the bloc.
"Russia is blackmailing us. Russia is using energy as a weapon. And therefore, in any event, whether it's a partial, major cutoff of Russian gas or a total cutoff of Russian gas, Europe needs to be ready," von der Leyen added.
Under the proposal, the 15 percent reduction would last from August 1 until March 31 and would be calculated based on each country's average consumption in the same period during 2016-2021.
The commission could make the target mandatory if it decides there is a substantial risk of severe gas shortages in the EU.
In order to pass, the proposal needs a qualified majority of 15 members out of 27, or EU countries representing at least 65 percent of the bloc's population.
EU diplomats are due to discuss the proposal on July 22, with the aim of approving it at a meeting of EU countries' energy ministers on July 26.
The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has warned about the power Russian President Vladimir Putin could wield by weaponizing energy exports and choking off the economies of the bloc.
“The partial shutoff of gas deliveries is already affecting European growth, and a full shutdown could be substantially more severe,” the IMF warned in a blog post.
It added that gross domestic product in member nations like Hungary, Slovakia, and the Czech Republic could shrink by up to 6 percent, RFE/RL reports.
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