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German businesses, unions oppose boycott of Russian oil and natural gas

Germany's employers and unions have joined together in opposing an immediate European Union ban on natural gas imports from Russia over its invasion of Ukraine, saying such a move would lead to factory shutdowns and the loss of jobs in the bloc's largest economy.

EU nations get 40% of their natural gas and 25% of their oil from Russia

Activists wearing masks with the likenesses of German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, Finance Minister Christian Lindner and Economics Minister Robert Habeck and holding a sign reading 'Oil embargo?' demonstrate at the Brandenburg Gate in favour of an embargo on Russian oil and gas in Berlin, on April 8. (Fabian Sommer/dpa/The Associated Press)

Germany's employers and unions have joined together in opposing an immediate European Union ban on natural gas imports from Russia over its invasion of Ukraine, saying such a move would lead to factory shutdowns and the loss of jobs in the bloc's largest economy.

"A rapid gas embargo would lead to loss of production, shutdowns, a further deindustrialization and the long-term loss of work positions in Germany," said Rainer Dulger, chairman of the Confederation of German Employers' Associations, and Reiner Hoffmann, chairman of the German Trade Union Confederation, in a joint statement Monday on Germany's dpa news agency.

The statement comes as European leaders are discussing possible new energy sanctions against Russian oil, following a decision April 7 to ban Russian coal imports beginning in August. Ukraine's leaders say revenues from Russia's energy exports are financing Moscow's destructive war on Ukraine and must be ended.

That won't be easy to do.

A chemical plant of the Evonik company steams in Wesseling, near Cologne, Germany, on April 6. German businesses and unions are warning that banning all energy imports from Russia due to the war in Ukraine would have unpredictable consequences for the country's economy. (Martin Meissner/The Associated Press)

The EU's 27 nations get around 40 per cent of their natural gas from Russia and around 25 per cent of their oil. Natural gas would be the most difficult do without, energy analysts say, since most of it comes by pipeline from Russia and supplies of liquefied gas, which can be ordered by ship, are limited amid strong demand worldwide.

Germany, a major manufacturing hub and an importer of Russian gas, has so far resisted an immediate shutoff and said it plans to instead phase out Russian oil by the end of the year and most Russian gas imports by mid-2024.

The EU's executive commission has outlined steps to cut the consumption of Russian gas by two-thirds by year's end through using more pipeline gas from Norway and Azerbaijan, importing more liquefied gas, accelerating the deployment of wind and solar projects and intensifying conservation efforts.

German Vice-Chancellor Robert Habeck said in an interview with the Funke media group that "an immediate gas embargo would endanger social peace in Germany."

People lay on the ground to symbolize those killed in the war on Ukraine, part of a demonstration outside the Reichstag building in Berlin on April 6. Protestors were demanding a ban on Russian energy imports. (Markus Schreiber/The Associated Press)

Despite widespread economic sanctions against Russian banks and individuals, the EU continues to send around $850 million US per day to Russia for oil and gas, even as EU governments condemn the war in Ukraine. Gas-intensive companies include producers of glass, metals, ceramics and chemicals. Industry officials say in many cases natural gas would be impossible to replace in the short run.

Analysts say Russian crude oil would be easier to replace than gas but that a boycott would still lead to higher energy prices that would hit consumers who are already facing record EU inflation of 7.5 per cent.

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