Europe's gas stores 95% full and winter supplies 'safe', says EU chief

Iran and Russia are 'teaming up' against world order, warns Ursula von der Leyen from Bahrain

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen attends a meeting on the sidelines of the G20 summit in Bali, Indonesia, this month. AFP
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Europe’s gas stores are almost full and supplies are “safe” this winter as the bloc has replaced most of its Russian gas with “reliable” sources including from the Middle East, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said on Friday.

The European Union has depended on Russian gas for years and Moscow typically supplies about 40 per cent of the bloc's natural gas, mostly by pipeline.

But Russian supplies to Europe have dropped by at least 80 per cent since its invasion of Ukraine in February.

“Before the war in Ukraine started, Europe was Russia’s biggest energy customer. Today, not even nine months later, this has changed fundamentally,” Ms von der Leyen said in Bahrain.

The top EU official told the annual Manama Dialogue, hosted by the International Institute of Strategic Studies, that Europe has replaced most of its Russian gas with supplies from “reliable” sources.

“Our storages are full at 95 per cent ― and we are safe for this winter. Our challenge will be next year's winter,” she said.

Ms von der Leyen said Arab states are known to have “natural resources for clean energy”, creating a chance for them to be major exporters of gas.

“Many of the countries in the Middle East have the natural resources for clean energy in abundance, and the know-how on existing and emerging technologies. This change is creating opportunities for today’s major exporters,” she said.

On Iran's supply of drones to Russia that it has used against Ukraine, the EU official said that Tehran and Moscow are “teaming up” and are “undermining the basic rules and principles of our global order”.

This week, Iran admitted to supplying Russia with drones but said this was done before the invasion of Ukraine.

Ukraine's military said it had recorded 26 kamikaze drone attacks along with 111 Russian missile strikes on Tuesday, as Moscow ― facing growing losses on the ground ― steps up strikes on energy infrastructure.

“It is a recipe for constant foreign interference, for never-ending violence and instability. And we simply cannot accept this. And we will not accept this,” she said.

Ms von der Leyen said that Gulf states had been warning the international community about the impacts of Iranian drones on the region.

“Gulf countries have been warning for years about the risks of Iran’s drones ― it took us too long to understand that we must work to prevent other forms of weapons proliferation, as well as nuclear weapons,” she said.

“The proliferation of Iranian drones is a security risk not just for the Middle East but for us all. Iran and Russia are undermining the basic rules of our global order. Where does this end, if left unchallenged?”

Updated: November 18, 2022, 6:34 PM