EU forced to defend Qatar gas ties amid corruption scandal

EU ‘needs to be less dependant’ on Russian gas says Michel

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The European Commission has leapt to the defence of its gas contracts with Qatar amid a corruption scandal that has shaken up the bloc. As the energy crisis sparked by Russia’s war in Ukraine sent shortage fears soaring, the EU raced to shore up gas from alternative producers. It has been scrambling to ease price shocks and slash dependence on the Kremlin as, before Russia invaded Ukraine in mid-February, Russian gas accounted for 40 percent of the bloc’s total supplies.

While the Gulf state’s energy could help account for the staggering volumes of Russian gas that previously poured into the bloc and need to be replaced, a spokesperson for the European Commission has told that the EU has “not prioritised contacts with Qatar for extra imports this year”. However, he did admit that additional capacity is “expected to be available by 2025”.

European Commission Spokesperson for Climate Action and Energy Tim McPhie told “Qatar has provided the same volume of liquified natural gas (LNG) imports in 2022 as in 2021. Qatar generally exports the majority of its liquified natural gas volumes under long-term contracts.

“As such, and given that the Qatari liquefaction plants already work close to their maximum capacity, there is in the short term not much extra gas put on the market or sent to the EU. Additional capacity is only expected to be available towards 2025, and so the EU has not prioritised contacts with Qatar for extra imports this year.”

Despite not looking to Qatar for extra imports immediately, European Commission figures do show that the bloc did import around five percent of its liquefied natural gas from the Middle Eastern nation with a questionable human rights record in 2022.

However, some EU nations have found themselves more in need of extra gas than others, particularly Germany, which got 55 percent of its gas from Russia before it invaded Ukraine. This helps to explain why Berlin signed a 15-year gas contract with state-owned QatarEnergy and US firm ConocoPhillips, to secure 2 million metric tons of LNG each year starting from 2026.

It comes as the Commission finds its elf embroiled in a corruption scandal that has sent shockwaves through the bloc. In a saga known as Qatargate, Brussels has been plunged into a crisis after Greek MEP and vice-president of the European Parliament, Eva Kaili, was arrested after police seized more than €900,000 belonging to her and her husband.

She is one of at least 10 EU officials under investigation over concerns that cash has been used by the Qatari state in an attempt to influence decision-making inside Brussels. But as allegations of corruption get thrown at Qatar, Doha has warned that it could threaten to jeopardise its future energy deals with the bloc.

A Qatari diplomat warned last month: “The decision to impose such a discriminatory restriction that limits dialogue and cooperation on Qatar before the legal process has ended will negatively affect regional and global security cooperation, as well as ongoing discussions around global energy poverty and security.

“We firmly reject the allegations associating our government with misconduct. Qatar is an important supplier of LNG (liquified natural gas) to Belgium.”

However, Qatar, and gas in general as an energy source, are not the only options the bloc has been using to help it slash its dependence on Putin.

Mr McPhie told “Europe’s reaction to the war is the latest example in how our Union has pulled together when it matters the most. A year ago, Europe had a massive dependency on Russian fossil fuels built up over decades.

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“This made us vulnerable to supply squeezes, price hikes and Putin’s market manipulation. In less than a year, thanks to our REPowerEU Plan, Europe has overcome this dangerous dependency.

“We have boosted renewable energy deployment and adopted measures to speed up permitting procedures for renewables, and proposed to increase the renewable energy targets in European legislation.

“We have already replaced around 80 percent of Russian pipeline gas volumes. We have filled our gas storages and we have reduced gas demand by more than 20 percent.”

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