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Austria Looks to Cut Its Dependence on Russian Natural Gas

Austria, one of the few EU countries still receiving Russian natural gas by pipeline, is looking to reduce its dependence on Moscow, including by seeking to end a long-term deal that Austria-based energy giant OMV has with Gazprom, Austrian Energy Minister Leonore Gewessler said on Monday.

“Austria has become massively dependent on Russian gas in recent decades. Despite government efforts, the share of Russian natural gas in Austria’s gas import mix remains too high,” said Gewessler, who is part of the Green party, a coalition partner in the government.

In December 2023, the share of Russian gas in Austria’s imports was at 98% -- the highest since the beginning of the war in Ukraine, the minister said at a news conference and in comments posted on X.  

“Our goal is: Ditch Russian natural gas. As a sovereign country, we cannot accept this dependence - the share of gas imports from Russia is increasing instead of decreasing,” Gewessler said.

As the share of Russian natural gas is growing instead of declining, and if the market fails, “the state must intervene,” she added.

“We will develop proposals for a legal requirements of diversification,” Gewessler said.

In addition, all options for terminating the long-term supply contract between OMV and Gazprom should be reviewed, the minister said.

Gewessler also proposed gas importers be obliged to gradually raise the share of non-Russian gas they are selling in Austria.

The proposals would need a two-thirds majority in Parliament, and Gewessler appealed to lawmakers to “take the next step and act in the interests of Austria’s independence.”

Gewessler is a representative of the Greens, the coalition partner of the conservative People’s Party of Chancellor Karl Nehammer. It wasn’t clear to what extent the People’s Party was involved in the plans Gewessler announced.

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It is not clear how far the proposals would go, either, as Austria is heading to a general election this year. The far-right Freedom Party is leading in polls.

By Tsvetana Paraskova for Oilprice.com

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