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Germany struggles to wean itself off Russian energy

Amid fears of job losses, hits to production and shutdowns


Pete Carvill

Germany has ruled out an immediate banning of Russian oil, opting instead to wean itself off by the end of the year.

Christian Lindner, the finance minister in chancellor Olaf Scholz’s cabinet, told the BBC that the country was moving as ‘fast as possible’ to wean itself off Russian energy, but that it would take time. The BBC said that this contrasted with foreign minister Annalena Baerbock saying that Germany would end oil imports by the end of 2022, followed by gas imports.

Germany’s response to the invasion of Ukraine by Russia has been the new chancellor’s biggest test since he came to office last year. After being much derided for its offer of 5,000 helmets for the Ukrainian military, the country has consistently sat on its hands, in the middle of the road, in terms of military support.

This week, Deutsche Welle said that Scholz was deflecting criticism over his lack of action. It wrote: “Scholz has faced mounting pressure — from Ukrainian officials, German opposition politicians and lawmakers within his own governing coalition — to provide Ukraine with more robust equipment in the face of a fresh Russian offensive.”

Right now, Scholz and his administration are stuck between a rock and a hard place. The chair of three German parliamentary committees said last week that the EU should impose an embargo on Russian oil.

As Reuters reported: “German Foreign Affairs Committee chairman Michael Roth said cutting Russian oil would be a very important signal because it would affect Russia’s main source of income.”

Meanwhile, PBS reports that Germany’s employers and unions are opposing an immediate EU ban on natural gas imports from Russia over fears that such a move would lead to factory shutdowns and loss of jobs.

Rainer Dulger, chairman of the BDA employers’ group said, along with Reiner Hoffmann, chair of the DGB trade union, that a rapid embargo on Russian gas would lead to loss of production, shutdowns, deindustrialisation, and long-term loss of work.

There are no easy answers to this one. But to quote Aneurin Bevan in 1953, “We know what happens to people who stay in the middle of the road. They get run down.”