The use of natural gas by the European Union remains an important dilemma in the context of the Russian invasion of Ukraine. It was almost with these words that we opened the column of the day 19 of March here in our space, entitled “Russian natural gas and Europe’s energy war”. After almost four months of that text, perhaps it is time to revisit it, especially in a very busy week in relation to the topic.
On that occasion, we remember that States are driven by interests, although, for Sometimes they claim moral justifications for their decisions. Especially in the case of countries that are liberal democracies, where convincing the electorate is necessary for the maintenance of the government that made that decision. The best way to justify an eventual increase or rationing of gas, then, is to claim that it is the “right thing” given Russia’s actions and the country’s human rights record.
Among the figures for European consumption of natural gas, we also mentioned in that text that Qatar, Azerbaijan and Algeria were emerging as the main candidates for gas supply to the European Union, replacing Russia. We cite the fact that at the end of March, Germany and Qatar signed an agreement for the supply of natural gas. The Arab absolutist monarchy owns the third largest gas reserves in the world, and is fighting for second place in the ranking of exporters.
Contracts and agreements
It was precisely these countries mentioned that were the protagonists of the energy news this week. Last Tuesday 19, Algerian President Abdelmadjid Tebboune received the outgoing Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi in Algiers. The two countries signed an agreement worth four billion euros for Italian investments in the Algerian energy industry, part of a package of fifteen agreements in different areas.
Draghi said that, today, Algeria is the largest gas supplier to Italy, and Algerian state-owned Sonatrach has announced that it will supply four billion cubic meters of natural gas to Italians. At the end of 2021, Italy imported 45% of its gas from Russia. On the same day, the President of Azerbaijan, Ilham Aliyev, received the President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, for the signing of agreements in Baku.
The idea is to double European gas imports Azerbaijani natural resources to at least 20 billion cubic meters per year up to
. According to von der Leyen, the agreement “will help offset cuts in Russian gas supplies and will contribute significantly to Europe’s energy security.” Still in energy agreements, and also on the same day, Emmanuel Macron received Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed al-Nahyan, from the United Arab Emirates, in Paris, for the signing of several cooperation agreements.
Also it should be noted that, in recent weeks, several other projects, focused on the long term, began to be aired and studied. The supply of natural gas by Angola and the construction of a trans-Saharan gas pipeline connecting Nigeria to Europe are perhaps the main examples. The European Union, then, as expected, moves to replace the Russian energy supply with other suppliers.
The question is: what about the justification of human rights, valuing democracy and transparency? Qatar is an absolutist monarchy that has no king, it has an owner, just like the emirates that make up the UAE. Algeria has been a military dictatorship since its founding, with varying degrees of authoritarianism over the decades, but far from being a democracy, especially since 2011. To say that Ilham Aliyev is the president of Azerbaijan is an understatement, he is a dictator who inherited power from his father in 45. Heydar Aliyev, in turn, took office in 1993.
Angola, although he is going through an opening process since his resignation by José Eduardo dos Santos, in 2017, is also not a democracy. Of the countries mentioned, Nigeria is the most “promising”, but it is still marked by the authoritarianism inherited from recent military dictatorships and resulting from the context of internal conflicts, both in Biafra, in the south, and against jihadists, in the north.
Basically, claims to value democracy or human rights do not survive when compared with energy needs or essential interests of States. More important than being democracies or not is the fact that these countries are not interpreted as threats to Europe, as Russia is interpreted, being a power in several aspects, especially nuclear.
Buying natural gas Russian has become synonymous with providing money to a country that will use these currencies to maintain its military machine that is being used in a war within Europe, which creates European refugees and which may ultimately turn against the Union itself. European Union.
If Azerbaijan uses the hard currency from the sale of gas to Europe to invade Armenia, or Algeria uses it to repress the young population demanding change, or the UAE buys bombs to use in Yemen or fighters to rival Iran, well, “bad luck”, “it happens”, “whatever”. We will have sad news, notes of repudiation, but they will not be a direct threat to the European Union, only distant wars.
When von der Leyen criticizes Russia for using its energy exports “as weapons”, using an English-language neologism, weaponization, this is also what she is talking about, not just Russian threats to cut off gas supplies to Europe in reprisal against the sanctions. Deep down, it is not necessarily democracy that matters, but the size of the threat against the good old interest, which always comes first.