Banning Russian natural gas imports is “currently impossible” for Austria, the country’s energy minister, Leonore Gewessler, told the press over the weekend.
“Austria is 80% dependent on Russian gas. As painful as it is, a gas embargo is currently not possible for us, just as it is for some other countries. The essence of sanctions is to let us last longer than [Russian President] Vladimir Putin, and we cannot do that without gas,” the official told Die Presse am Sonntag.
Earlier this month, the EU announced it intends to stop gas supplies from Russia by 2027. The decision was triggered by Russia’s introduction of a new ruble-based payment mechanism for its gas deliveries amid sanctions placed on Moscow in response to Russia’s military operation in Ukraine, which is highly criticized in the EU and other Western states. Austria also triggered “an early emergency” mechanism to manage gas supplies, aiming to cut reliance on Russian deliveries. However, according to Gewessler, it is unlikely that Europe will manage to cease buying Russian gas by the 2027 deadline.
“That doesn’t happen overnight and, to be honest, 2027 is very ambitious. Every phase-out plan has three pillars: firstly, reduce gas consumption or do without it entirely, for example, by replacing the gas heating system and switching to green electricity. Secondly, increase domestic production, i.e. by expanding hydrogen and biogas production. And thirdly, look for new supplier countries,” she explained, as reported by another newspaper, the Kurier, noting that all of these measures take time.