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EU out of the frying pan into the fire: China Daily editorial

chinadaily.com.cn | Updated: 2022-10-13 19:46

Cars line up for fuel outside a gas station in Lille, north France, Oct 6, 2022. [Photo/Xinhua]

After more than seven months, Europeans have come to the painful realization of who is paying the costs and who has emerged as the largest beneficiary of the ongoing conflict in Ukraine.

Speaking to the French National Assembly on Monday, Economy Minister Bruno Le Maire said that the conflict should not lead to the weakening of Europe and the dominance of the United States, which sells its liquefied natural gas to Europe "at a price four times higher than its cost for American consumers". He described the situation as "unacceptable".

His remarks came just days after French President Emmanuel Macron expressed dissatisfaction over the expensive LNG imported from the US and Norway. Macron told the informal European Union Summit in Prague, "We are going to say with great friendship toward our American friends, our Norwegian friends, that 'you are great, you provide us with gas'. But there is one thing that cannot last for long, to pay 4 times the price … That isn't the exact meaning of friendship."

As winter approaches, Europe is facing an unprecedented energy crisis, with energy prices having soared as compared with the average in recent years, mainly because of the disrupted supply as a result of the Russia-Ukraine conflict. Before the start of the conflict, Russia used to provide 25 percent of the energy consumed by the European countries, including 45 percent of the gas. As top EU diplomat Josep Borrell once noted, the well-being of the EU was based on cheap energy resources from Russia.

Now that Russia has cut off supplies in response to economic sanctions imposed on it by the West, the EU countries have been forced to turn to the US for energy supplies, with liquefied natural gas shipments from the US to the EU doubling in 2022 compared to last year.

The much higher price European countries are having to pay for gas has dealt a heavy blow to the EU economy. The International Monetary Fund and the World Bank have both forecast a large-scale recession in European economies.

Yet the energy crisis of European countries has been very advantageous to the US economy. As The Wall Street Journal wrote, high gas prices are forcing European companies to transfer their production to the US, which is benefiting from the trend.

US President Joe Biden has called it his top priority to rebuild alliances with the European allies and strengthen their political and economic bonds. The fact that such a relationship is leading to transfer of the Europe's energy dependency from Russia to the US and the weakening of Europe's autonomy in foreign policy as a result should give European leaders pause for thought as to whether the conflict should have been avoided in the first place, and certainly how it can be ended.

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