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ENERGY

Germany raps US over ‘astronomical’ gas prices

Germany's economy minister on Wednesday accused countries including the US of charging too much for gas as Europe's biggest economy struggles to rebalance its energy mix without Russian supplies.

Economics Minister Robert Habeck
Economics Minister Robert Habeck (Greens) sits in parliament during a vote on nuclear energy. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Kay Nietfeld

“Some countries, even friendly ones, are achieving astronomical prices in some cases,”

Robert Habeck told the Neue Osnabruecker Zeitung newspaper. “This naturally brings problems with it, which we have to talk about,” he said.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has caused a dramatic energy crisis in Germany, which previously relied on Moscow for 55 percent of gas deliveries.

Russia has been gradually squeezing supplies since invading Ukraine in what Berlin believes is retaliation for its support for Kyiv.

To fill the gap, Berlin is investing in more expensive liquefied natural gas (LNG).

Germany and other European countries have thus turned to the United States, which now provides 45 percent of European LNG imports — up from 28 percent in 2021.

“The US turned to us when oil prices shot up, and as a result national oil reserves were also tapped in Europe,” Habeck said. “I think such solidarity would also be good for curbing gas prices.”

Habeck also called on the EU to coordinate gas purchases to help bring prices down.

The bloc should “bundle its market power and orchestrate smart and synchronised purchasing behaviour among EU states so that individual EU countries do not outbid each other and drive up world market prices”, he said.

Germany last week announced a 200-billion-euro ($199-billion) fund to shield consumers from soaring energy prices.

However, the plan has been criticised by France and key members of the European Commission, who are calling for EU-wide solutions to the energy crunch.

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UKRAINE

Scholz says Russia nuclear threat ‘reduced by international pressure’

The risk of nuclear weapons being used in the Ukraine conflict has lessened thanks to international pressure on Russia, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said in an interview published Thursday.

Scholz says Russia nuclear threat 'reduced by international pressure'

“One thing has changed for the time being: Russia has stopped threatening to use nuclear weapons. In response to the international community marking a red line,” Scholz said in the interview with Germany’s Funke media group.

Asked whether the threat of a nuclear escalation had been averted, Scholz replied: “For the time being, we have put a stop to it.”

The German leader lauded his recent visit to China as having contributed to the development.

“During my visit to Beijing, Chinese President Xi (Jinping) and I jointly expressed that nuclear weapons must not be used. Shortly afterwards, the G20 countries reaffirmed this position,” he said.

READ ALSO: Scholz urges Putin to withdraw troops for ‘diplomatic’ end to war

Scholz was also asked about controversial comments by French President Emmanuel Macron that it would be necessary to provide “guarantees for its own security to Russia, the day it returns to the table” of negotiations.

“The priority now is for Russia to end the war immediately and withdraw its troops,” he said.

“It is true that the question is then how we can achieve security for Europe. Of course we are ready to talk with Russia about arms control in Europe. We offered this before the war, and this position has not changed.”

Putin’s own menacing language, and the military stalemate, have raised fears Russia could resort to its nuclear arsenal to achieve a military breakthrough.

But speaking at a meeting of his human rights council on Wednesday, Putin suggested that Moscow would only use nuclear weapons in response to such an attack.

“When we are struck, we strike back,” he said, stressing that his country’s strategy was based on “so called retaliatory strike” policy.

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