Doha is still threatening to cut off gas to heavily dependent Europeans
While Emmanuel Macron awkwardly tried to console Kylian Mbappe in Doha, Qatar was grappling with the most serious corruption scandal in its history, unwisely putting pressure on the European Union. This Sunday, December 18, a Qatari diplomat tried to formally dissuade Brussels from adopting sanctions against the emirate, which is suspected of corrupting the Greek vice-president of the European Parliament, Eva Kaili, who is thus imprisoned in Belgium.
Earlier this week, and after years of waiting, MEPs decided to stop Qatari interests from entering the parliament. A decision that still needs to be approved by the President of the Assembly, Roberta Metsola. Meanwhile, Qatar warns: the sanction will be accepted by Doha as one “discrimination restriction”and will be one “A negative impact on regional and global security cooperation, as well as ongoing discussions on global energy scarcity and security”. It is clear that Qatar is threatening to limit gas imports to Europe, which remains dependent on fossil fuels.
Qatar was lucky
Europe’s energy transition is lagging far behind. 30% of European households continue to be heated with gas, which supplies a good part of European industry. “A large part of the EU’s industrial and economic model has until now been based on Russia’s large natural gas export capacity and its low price”, notes the Shift Project, a think tank led by Jean-Marc Jancovich, in a recent report produced under the auspices of the Ministry of the Armed Forces. This “model crashed (…) possibly unrecoverable” the authors continue. An unexpected chance for Qatar.
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Traditionally, the emirate exports most of its natural gas to Asia, particularly China, India and Pakistan. Europe received little of it, as it was well and cheaply supplied by gas pipelines from Russia, Norway or Algeria. However, after the intervention in Ukraine last February, the EU had to try to reduce its dependence on Russia. In August, the EU imported only 17% of its gas, compared to 44% last February. Europe has been forced to find new partners, especially with the possibility of supplying it by boat with liquefied natural gas (LNG), of which Qatar is one of the largest exporters with the United States.
Therefore, the President of the Council of Europe Charles Michel and the Minister of Economy of Germany Robert Habeck rushed to Doha to tempt the emir. At the end of November, Germany signed an important gas import agreement with Qatar for a period of 15 years starting from 2026. These hydrocarbons should be extracted from the North field, which is the world’s largest gas reserve. Its recently decided full exploitation should allow Qatar to increase production by more than 60% over the next decade.
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“The US and Qatar have long been arbiters in the security of natural gas supplies to Europe”, celebrating the Shift Project. Indeed, these two countries have the largest gas reserves on the planet, and the world is in danger of seizing them. “The European Union (EU) risks being exposed to serious supply competition between natural gas importing countries”, celebrating the Shift Project. Demand for gas in Asia is likely to grow and replace coal there. Therefore, Qatar will be in a position to play the referee by either handing over Europe or turning to Asia and especially China.
Therefore, despite the corruption scandals, human rights and lack of respect for the workers working on the World Cup grounds, Doha has every opportunity to put pressure on the Europeans. After “Qatargate”, the Minister of Economy of Germany declared that his country will no longer refuse the gas import contract. To get rid of these dependencies, the EU has basically only one solution: accelerate the phase-out of fossil fuels.