Germany rules out ban on Russian gas imports

Scholz and Johnson highlight supply of weapons to Ukraine

British prime minister Boris Johnson and German chancellor Olaf Scholz presented a united front in Downing Street on Friday as they condemned Russian atrocities and promised more weapons for Ukraine. But Mr Scholz ruled out an immediate embargo on Russian gas imports, telling reporters that Germany was moving as quickly as possible to put alternative arrangements in place.

"We want to get fossil fuels from other places than Russia. We are working very hard to make this happen," he said.

“We are doing all we can. We are doing a lot.”

Mr Scholz said Germany would join the rest of the EU in an immediate halt to coal imports from Russia and would end imports of oil from there by the end of this year. But he said it could take until 2024 to put the infrastructure in place to bring liquefied natural gas (LNG) onshore and to supply it to users in Germany.

“Germany is already starting to wean off its dependence; we’re diversifying our sources, we’re investing large-scale in order to establish the technical and physical infrastructure necessary to import natural gas via the northern German shores,” he said.

Mr Johnson applauded what he described as the “seismic decisions” the new government in Berlin had made to move Germany away from Russian hydrocarbons.

“We cannot transform our respective energy systems overnight, but we also know that Putin’s war will not end overnight. That’s why Britain and Germany have joined dozens of allies to supply Ukraine with defensive weapons,” he said.

“Today, I can announce that the UK will send a further £100 million (€120m) worth of high-grade military equipment to Ukraine’s armed forces, including more Starstreak anti-aircraft missiles, which fly at three times the speed of sound, another 800 anti-tank missiles, and precision munitions capable of lingering in the sky until directed to their target.”

Mr Scholz said the sanctions imposed on Russia were already having a big impact, adding that Russian president Vladimir Putin had miscalculated by pushing European gas-importing countries to build infrastructure for alternative arrangements which would remain in place after the war was over. He said the unity shown by western countries in the face of Mr Putin's aggression was among its greatest strengths.

"Unity is key. Unity in the EU, unity in the G7 and in Nato. All that is something that Putin did not expect. He was sure that we would be divided. And he had to see that we were united and he will see that we will remain united," he said.

Mr Scholz praised the dialogue French president Emmanuel Macron had maintained with Mr Putin and said the priority must be to negotiate a ceasefire. But Mr Johnson said he was sceptical about the likely success of such efforts.

“Negotiating with Putin does not seem to me to be full of promise. I don’t feel that he can be trusted. That’s not to say I don’t admire the efforts of people who try to find a way through, but my own view is that I am deeply, deeply sceptical and, I’m afraid, cynical now about his assurances,” the British prime minister said.

The two leaders discussed the impasse between Britain and the EU over the Northern Ireland protocol which is a part of the EU-UK Brexit withdrawal agreement that avoids a hard border in Ireland post-Brexit by placing a trade border in the Irish Sea. But Mr Johnson made clear that he had failed to persuade Mr Scholz of the merits of Britain’s case for the agreement to be renegotiated. He said he could not rule out triggering article 16.

Denis Staunton

Denis Staunton

Denis Staunton is London Editor of The Irish Times

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