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The EU has agreed to cut gas consumption by 15% in order to reduce reliance on Russia

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

The European Union has agreed to cut natural gas consumption by 15%. That's in order to reduce its member states' reliance on Russia for energy. But as NPR's Berlin correspondent Rob Schmitz reports, some member states will be exempted.

ROB SCHMITZ, BYLINE: European energy minister has reached an agreement quicker than they usually do, a sign, said European Commissioner for Energy Kadri Simson, that when it comes to Europe's energy needs, time is of the essence.

KADRI SIMSON: There was consensus around the table that we need to get ready for the worst. And everyone should contribute, sending a clear signal to the markets, citizens and those hoping for signs of EU disunity.

SCHMITZ: Simson's talking about Russia. Yesterday, Russian energy company Gazprom announced it would cut gas deliveries on one of its biggest pipelines to Europe by half, the latest of several reductions in gas flows to Europe. Czech Republic politician Jozef Sikela said today's agreement that members reduce gas use from August to next March would help curb Moscow's power over the EU.

JOZEF SIKELA: We will not allow Russia to threaten our security by deliberately disrupting gas deliveries and using gas as a political weapon.

SCHMITZ: Today's agreement does allow several states to opt out of the gas reductions. There were states that are either not connected to Russian gas lines or don't rely on much Russian energy in the first place.

JACOB KIRKEGAARD: The original proposal was essentially a bailout of Germany.

SCHMITZ: The German Marshall Fund's Jacob Kirkegaard says Germany, which relies on Russia for more than a third of its gas, should be doing the lion's share of gas reduction.

KIRKEGAARD: Germany is in its current predicament largely because of its own domestic policy mistakes when it comes to energy supplies.

SCHMITZ: Kirkegaard says today's agreement will force Germany to speed up its efforts to make its economy more energy-efficient, starting with its urban centers.

KIRKEGAARD: We're going to see changes to building code, reductions in the temperatures of public buildings.

SCHMITZ: And, he says, we'll likely see Germany's government making a bigger decision later this year to prolong the life of three nuclear power plants scheduled to close by the end of the year.

Rob Schmitz, NPR News, Berlin.

(SOUNDBITE OF BUN B AND STATIK SELEKTAH SONG, "STILL TRILL") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Rob Schmitz is NPR's international correspondent based in Berlin, where he covers the human stories of a vast region reckoning with its past while it tries to guide the world toward a brighter future. From his base in the heart of Europe, Schmitz has covered Germany's levelheaded management of the COVID-19 pandemic, the rise of right-wing nationalist politics in Poland and creeping Chinese government influence inside the Czech Republic.