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The Qatar scandal causes Europe severe gas problems

With the EU trying to wean itself from Russian gas, the European Parliament corruption scandal demonstrates that there is no easy way out.

The alleged Qatar corruption crisis enveloping the European Parliament could not have come at a worse time for gas-short EU members, particularly Germany.


The Gulf state is at the centre of cash-for-influence allegations that have rocked the foundations of EU democracy. Qatar, however, is critical to Europe's plans for dealing with the energy issue since it is a significant exporter of liquefied natural gas (LNG).


If Belgian authorities publicly incriminate Doha in their continuing corruption probe, Qatar's role as a reliable source of gas will only expand in the coming months, adding a layer of complexity to the diplomatic equation for EU members. The uproar illustrates how, in the world of energy geopolitics, there are rarely any easy solutions, particularly for Germany, which is keen to find alternative suppliers to Russia.


According to European Commission estimates, Qatari LNG shipments have accounted for little under 5% of the EU's total gas imports this year. However, Qatar's relevance to Europe's energy security is projected to expand as a result of a massive expansion of its LNG production capacity, with two big projects set to be completed in 2026 and 2027.



Germany was the first to arrive. Berlin is among the EU capitals most desperate for alternative gas supplies, having relied on Russia for no less than 55% of its supply prior to the Ukraine war.


Last month, German companies inked a 15-year gas contract with QatarEnergy and ConocoPhillips, guaranteeing 2 million metric tonnes of LNG yearly beginning in 2026. That year saw the start of the first phase of Qatar's capacity expansion, a Persian Gulf project known as North Field East.


"Several EU nations, including Italy, have become increasingly interested in Qatari LNG," Cinzia Bianco, research fellow on Europe and the Gulf at the European Council on Foreign Relations (ECFR) think tank, said. "Germany is the only European Union country to have struck a large long-term energy arrangement with Qatar."


While this agreement is beneficial to energy security, it risks becoming an ethical nightmare for Berlin. When asked at a meeting of EU energy ministers in Brussels on Tuesday whether it was OK to "purchase gas from Qatar if Qatar buys European MPs," Germany's Economy Minister Robert Habeck responded the concerns were "two different things."


"Bribery is a crime," he declared. "Trade with other countries always has to be weighed with the moral repercussions that you get into and at the same time you have to see that you can assure security of supply. And in this scenario, where it comes to gas imports, Europe or Germany has a vested interest in compensating for Russian gas losses. So I believe we must distinguish between the two."


To put it another way, energy security is too essential to be entangled in the European Parliament issue. Previously, the Qatari government denied any wrongdoing. Doha responded to the claims on Sunday, accusing Brussels of "discriminatory" action against Qatar based on "inaccurate" information. According to media reports, a Qatari official stated that the European Parliament's response to the issue could "harm... ongoing conversations about global energy poverty and security."


However, that viewpoint is not shared by everyone. Dennis Radtke, a German Christian Democrat MEP, had previously questioned the Gulf state's gas contracts and sought a review of the gas-supply contracts.


The controversy could also increase pressure on Germany's ruling coalition, where the Greens have found themselves in the awkward position of needing to support deals for large additional fossil supplies — as well as the LNG infrastructure to import them. When asked if Berlin should reconsider its agreement with Qatar, Rasmus Andresen, MEP and spokesperson for the German Greens in the European Parliament, said, "We are currently looking at everything relating to Qatar in the European Parliament, and others should do the same."


Henrike Hahn, a fellow German Green MEP, stated that while Qatari gas is "not a long-term answer" to Germany's energy security, it is "now the lesser evil as compared to Russia."


Germany is not the only EU country with close links to Qatar in the energy sector. TotalEnergies, the French energy conglomerate, has a significant involvement in both the North Field East LNG development, which it describes as the world's largest LNG project, and its sister project, North Field South. Eni, an Italian company, also has an interest in North Field East.


If Belgian authorities openly incriminate Qatar in the Brussels corruption affair, "formal diplomatic protests" from EU members are likely, according to Bianco of the ECFR. Individual member states control the majority of energy linkages with Qatar, she added. She anticipated, however, that the incident would have the consequence of postponing any future energy agreement between the EU and Qatar.

By fLEXI tEAM



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