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Europeans fall prey to prices

By CHEN WEIHUA | China Daily | Updated: 2022-12-21 07:00

Trade union members demonstrate in front of the Engie headquarters in Brussels on Nov 9. The cost-of-living pressure has added strains to people's livelihoods. [Photo/Agencies]

Conflict in Ukraine drives up costs as Europe bears brunt of Russia sanctions

About 16,500 people took to the street in the Belgian capital Brussels on Dec 16 in the latest of a series of nationwide protests calling for higher wages and more purchasing power to alleviate a cost-of-living crisis fueled by soaring energy prices brought on by the Russia-Ukraine conflict, soon into its 11th month.

The protests almost paralyzed the city's metro and bus system, and about 60 percent of flights at Brussels Airport had to be canceled.

In a survey by the polling institute Kantar of 1,000 Belgians last month, a third of respondents said they were considering not paying their upcoming energy bills because of soaring prices.

On the day of the demonstrations, the Council of European Union adopted the ninth round of economic sanctions against Russia, including putting hundreds of additional entities and individuals on the sanctions list and under new export controls, in an effort to further hurt the Russian economy.

Under previously announced sanctions, the EU started banning coal imports from Russia on Aug 10 and forbade seaborne crude imports from Russia on Dec 5 and will ban Russian oil products from Feb 5.

A ban on Russian natural gas, which gets to the EU mostly through pipelines, is seen as more difficult because Russia was supplying EU countries with 40 percent of their natural gas last year, with Germany, Italy and the Netherlands being the major importers.

Germany suspended the Nord Stream 2 project when hostilities broke out in Ukraine in late February. Two alleged sabotage explosions near the Nord Stream 1 and 2 pipelines in September greatly reduced the gas supply that had already been falling because of technical issues that Russia described as relating to Western sanctions.

To meet its energy needs, the EU has sharply increased its imports of natural gas from Norway and liquefied natural gas from the United States at high prices.

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