Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyj sees his country facing the historic possibility of becoming a candidate for EU membership, but at the same time warns of serious fighting. “A truly historic week begins tomorrow when we hear the answer from the European Union on Ukraine’s candidate status,” Zelenskyy said in his video address on Monday night. However, he warned that a targeted intensification of Russian aggression is to be expected for this reason.
Russia will “demonstratively intensify its hostile actions this week, not only towards us, but also towards other European countries,” said Zelenskyy. Ukraine is prepared and is warning its partners.
According to the Ukrainian President, Russia is gathering forces in the direction of Kharkiv and Zaporizhia. Both cities are located in the predominantly Russian-speaking east of Ukraine. Parts of the areas are already occupied by Russian troops.
On Friday, the EU Commission recommended granting Ukraine candidate status. However, all 27 member states still have to agree to this. The final decision is to be made at the EU summit on 23/24. June fall.
The industry supports plans by Economics Minister Robert Habeck (Greens) to reduce gas consumption in view of the throttling of Russian gas supplies. “We have to reduce gas consumption as much as possible, every kilowatt hour counts. The priority must be to fill the gas storage tanks for the coming winter,” said Industry President Siegfried Russwurm of the German Press Agency:
Germany must open up as many other sources as possible. Companies would have to switch to oil, for example, where that could be done. “But a number of industrial processes only work with gas. A gas shortage threatens to bring production to a standstill,” said the President of the Federation of German Industries (BDI).
Gas-fired power generation must be stopped and coal-fired power plants pulled from the reserve immediately, Russwurm affirmed. “Currently it is about short-term bridging measures to secure the energy supply, not about a date for the coal phase-out in 2038 or 2030.” Renewable energies must be massively accelerated.
“Germany must finally say goodbye to paralyzing small-small debates and blocking attitudes and let off the brakes on the expansion of renewables. Politicians and administrators must switch on the turbo as soon as possible for the designation of new areas for wind and solar power plants and for faster approvals.”
Habeck wants to take additional measures to save gas and increase precaution. He described the situation as serious. To counteract this, the use of gas for power generation and industry is to be reduced. More coal-fired power plants are to be used. The filling of the gas storage is to be promoted in order to be prepared for the winter.
In the face of curtailed Russian gas supplies, Austria has decided to reactivate a coal-fired power plant that has been shut down. The Federal Chancellery in Vienna announced on Sunday that the authorities and Austria’s largest electricity producer, the Verbund Group, were working on preparing the power plant in Mellach in southern Austria for operation with coal again. The primary goal is to ensure Austria’s gas supply, said Chancellor Karl Nehammer on Sunday.
The decision was made by the conservative-green government led by Nehammer after a meeting of the crisis cabinet on the throttled gas supplies from Russia. The Russian energy company Gazprom had previously announced that it would reduce its natural gas deliveries to Austria – similar to what it had previously done with Austria’s neighboring countries Germany and Italy. In mid-June, the gas storage capacity in Austria was 39 percent. For comparison: In Germany, the Federal Network Agency recently reported 57 percent.
Shortly before the EU summit in Brussels, EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen expressed her conviction that Ukraine would be granted candidate status. “I firmly assume that we will get a positive answer, get support, the course has now been set,” said von der Leyen on Sunday evening on the ARD talk show “Anne Will”. “Of course, this is a historic decision that the European Council must now make, but the preparations are good,” she said, adding: “I’m confident.”
On Friday, the EU Commission spoke out in favor of officially nominating Ukraine and Moldova as candidates for accession to the European Union. On Thursday and Friday, the 27 EU states will discuss this recommendation in Brussels – and also Georgia’s application for membership, which the EU Commission believes still has to meet conditions for status. The member countries have not yet had a uniform line on this. Austria’s government, for example, wants Bosnia-Herzegovina to have candidate status. Romania wants to get Georgia on board.
The CEO of the Essen-based energy group RWE, Markus Krebber, expects gas and electricity prices to remain high for years after Russia attacked Ukraine. “It will probably take three to five years,” said the manager of the “Süddeutsche Zeitung” on the energy bottlenecks in Germany. “Because it takes time before new capacities are created and other countries can supply additional energy.” Krebber welcomed the plans of Federal Minister of Economics Robert Habeck (Greens) to start up coal-fired power plants again in order to save natural gas. “Everywhere where you can switch to other energy sources, this should happen.”
The throttling of gas supplies from Russia is already having an effect. “We also get significantly less than the agreed amounts,” says the RWE boss. The group, which operates gas and coal-fired power plants in Germany, Great Britain and the Netherlands, must now “buy the fuel at significantly higher and further increasing prices”. Krebber ruled out continued operation of the last nuclear power plants in Germany beyond the end of 2022. However, as planned, RWE is banking on the expansion of the Garzweiler II opencast lignite mine in the Rhineland. “Meeting the open pit mine progress on schedule is important – especially as we prepare for gas saving scenarios.”