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Germany says difficulties sharing gas with neighbours go back a long way

·2-min read
Pipes at the landfall facilities of the 'Nord Stream 1' gas pipline in Lubmin

(Reuters) - Germany's difficulties in getting European partners to sign bilateral agreements on sharing gas in case of an emergency predate the current situation, the economy ministry said on Friday in response to a report outlining the problems.

"There has been an obligation to conclude solidarity contracts since 2018," a ministry spokesperson said. "The negotiations and willingness to conclude them was very difficult" even before Germany's current coalition government took power in December 2021, the spokesperson told Reuters.

With Russia reducing its gas exports to Europe's biggest economy, Germany has already agreed such pacts with Denmark, Czech Republic and Austria, aiming to avoid panic if a supply crisis strikes and reduce the risk countries would hoard fuel.

In July, the economy ministry said Germany had been working intensively and for a long time on further agreements with other nearby states such as Poland and Italy.

Welt newspaper reported on Thursday, citing an economy ministry report to German lawmakers, that these talks were proving to be more difficult than expected, Welt reported.

"Belgium, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and Poland are evading the constructive negotiations and conclusion of the bilateral solidarity agreements with us," the report said.

European Union members agreed in July to free up fuel to share around in a supply crisis, but it was up to individual countries to sort out how that sharing will happen in practice.

The ministry said the Italian government could only re-engage in talks after the parliamentary election due at the end of September.

It was not foreseeable when Berlin could sign a trilateral agreement with Switzerland and Italy, the report said.

According to the report, Germany's neighbours were reluctant to sign due to disagreements over compensation Berlin would have to pay to its companies for expropriating their gas to offer to neighbours.

(Reporting by Riham Alkousaa; Editing by Miranda Murray and Philippa Fletcher)