The EU expects Russia to respect existing energy contracts but is prepared to meet the challenge if it fails to do so, the economic commissioner, Paolo Gentiloni, said.
Gentiloni was speaking after Russia scrapped a Saturday deadline to resume flows of an important gas supply route to Germany, deepening Europe’s difficulties in securing winter fuel.
The Russian state energy firm Gazprom extended the shutdown of gas flows through its Nord Stream 1 pipeline to Germany on Friday evening.
Gazprom said supplies would remain halted indefinitely after a leak was detected. It said the pipeline would not restart until repairs were fully implemented.
The move came hours after G7 countries agreed to impose a price cap on Russian oil in an attempt to stem the flow of funds to Vladimir Putin’s regime.
Nord Stream 1 is the single biggest pipeline for gas from Russia to Europe and has the capacity to deliver 55bn cubic metres of gas a year. Continued supplies through the pipeline are seen as crucial to prevent a deepening of the energy crisis.
Asked about the halt to the Nord Stream 1 gas pipeline, Gentiloni said: “We are not afraid of Putin’s decisions. We ask them to respect their contracts but if they don’t, we are ready to react.”
Gentiloni pointed to high gas storage levels across the EU and plans to cut energy consumption as a sign that the continent was preparing for a tough winter.
Speaking on the sidelines of the Ambrosetti Forum in northern Italy, he said measures to help consumers with rising bills should be targeted and not involve higher debt levels.
He also said that other nations may join a price cap on Russian oil agreed by G7 finance ministers on Friday.
“We discussed how to build a broader coalition,” he said, referring to the G7 call held on Friday.
“I’m sure that countries like Australia and South Korea could be interested in joining this coalition,” noting that lower oil prices would benefit countries even if they did not formally sign up to the agreement.
Since the invasion of Ukraine, Putin’s regime has been accused of weaponising gas by reducing supplies into Europe, pushing prices higher and threatening blackouts.
Gazprom said on Saturday Siemens Energy was ready to carry out repairs on the Nord Stream 1 pipeline but there was nowhere available to carry out the work. However, Siemens denied it had been asked to do the job.
“Siemens is taking part in repair work in accordance with the current contract, detecting malfunctions … and is ready to fix the oil leaks. Only there is nowhere to do the repair,” Gazprom said in a statement on its Telegram channel on Saturday.
Siemens Energy said it had not been commissioned to carry out the work but was available, adding that the Gazprom reported leak did not normally affect the operation of a turbine and could be sealed on site.
“Irrespective of this, we have already pointed out several times that there are enough additional turbines available in the Portovaya compressor station for Nord Stream 1 to operate,” a spokesperson for the company said.