Qatar scandal gives Europe a major gas headache – POLITICO | Popgen Tech


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The alleged Qatar corruption scandal engulfing the European Parliament could not have come at a more awkward time for gas-poor EU countries – and especially for Germany.

The Gulf state is at the center of cash-for-influence allegations that have shaken EU democracy to its core. But as a major exporter of liquefied natural gas (LNG), Qatar is also vital to Europe’s plans to tackle the energy crisis.

Qatar’s importance as a reliable source of gas will only increase in the coming months, adding a layer of complexity to the diplomatic equation for EU countries, if Belgian authorities formally involve Doha in their ongoing corruption probe. For Germany in particular, which is desperate to find alternative suppliers to Russia, the furore highlights how in the world of energy geopolitics there are rarely easy options.

Overall imports of Qatari LNG represent just under 5 percent of the EU’s gas imports so far this year, according to European Commission figures. But Qatar’s importance to Europe’s energy security is set to increase thanks to a mega-expansion of its LNG production capacity, with two major projects due to be completed in 2026 and 2027.

Germany was first. Berlin is one of the EU capitals most desperate to secure alternative supplies of gas, having depended on Russia for no less than 55 percent of its supplies before the war in Ukraine.

Last month, German firms signed a 15-year gas contract with QatarEnergy and US firm ConocoPhillips, guaranteeing 2 million metric tons of LNG annually from 2026. This is the year when the first phase of Qatar’s capacity expansion — a Persian Gulf development known as North Field East — comes into operation.

“Several EU countries – such as Italy – have been more interested in Qatari LNG, but most of them have discussed spot market deals” that would provide gas immediately, said Cinzia Bianco, research fellow on Europe and the Gulf at the European Council on Foreign Affairs. . Relationships (ECFR) think tank. “Germany is the only EU country to sign a significant long-term energy deal with Qatar.”

This deal, while good for energy security, risks becoming an ethical nightmare for Berlin. On Tuesday, after a meeting of EU energy ministers in Brussels on whether it was right to “buy gas from Qatar if Qatar buys European MPs,” Germany’s Economy Minister Robert Habeck said the issues should be ” two different things”.

“Bribery is a criminal offence,” he said. “Trade with other countries must always be weighed against the moral consequences you incur and at the same time you must see that you can ensure security of supply. And in this case, where it is a question of gas purchases, Europe or Germany has an interest to compensate for the loss of Russian gas. So I think we have to distinguish between the two.”

In other words, energy security is too important to get mixed up in the European Parliament scandal. The Qatari government has previously denied any wrongdoing. On Sunday, Doha hit back at the allegations, accusing Brussels of taking “discriminatory” action against Qatar based on “inaccurate” information. In a statement reported by the media, a Qatari diplomat said the European Parliament’s response to the scandal could “negatively affect … ongoing discussions on global energy poverty and security.”

However, that position was not with everyone. German Christian Democratic Member of Parliament Dennis Radtke previously questioned the gas contracts with the Gulf state and demanded a review of the gas supply contracts.

The scandal could also put more pressure on Germany’s ruling coalition, in which the Greens have found themselves in the awkward position of underwriting deals for significant new fossil supplies – and the LNG infrastructure to import them. Asked whether Berlin should review its agreement with Qatar, Rasmus Andresen, MEP and spokesman for the German Greens in the European Parliament, replied: “We are currently looking at everything related to Qatar in the European Parliament, and others should do too.”

Fellow German Green LPP Henrike Hahn said Qatari gas is “not a long-term solution” to Germany’s energy security, but is “currently the lesser evil compared to Russia.”

Germany’s new Wilhelmshaven terminal will allow it to import liquefied natural gas by ship | David Hecker/Getty Images

Germany is not the only EU country with deep energy ties to Qatar. French energy giant TotalEnergies holds significant stakes in both the North Field East LNG development, which it describes as the world’s largest LNG project, and in its sister project, North Field South. Italy’s Eni also holds a stake in North Field East.

The ECFR’s Bianco said if Belgian authorities publicly implicated Qatar in the Brussels corruption scandal, “official diplomatic complaints” from EU countries would likely follow. Energy ties with Qatar are largely held by individual member states, she added. But she predicted the scandal could have the effect of delaying any moves towards a future energy partnership between the EU and Qatar.

Karl Mathiesen and Gabriel Rinaldi reported.


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