Since the beginning of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, politicians, experts, and economists in Europe have continued to discuss the necessity and feasibility of immediate resignation from importing natural gas from Russia. Most countries in our region strongly support the idea. After a joint meeting in Riga on 22 April, the prime ministers of three Baltic states: Estonia, Latvia, and Estonia, declared their countries would no longer buy Russian gas.
Not long ago, in 2010, all three countries were almost entirely dependent on Russian gas. By 2020 two of them had strongly reduced their dependence. The shares of gas purchased from Russia dropped from nearly 100% to 49% for Estonia and 26% for Lithuania. However, in that same period, the share in Latvia slightly increased (see graph). The recent decision was made possible thanks to a large amount of gas in storage and LNG imports, mainly from Norway and other Scandinavian countries.
What is the situation for other countries in the region?
According to Eurostat data from 2020, Croatia, Romania, Slovenia, and Poland are the least dependent on Russian gas, with dependency ratios (shares of Russian gas in total consumption) ranging from 0% in Croatia to 35% in Poland. All of these countries managed to significantly reduce their dependence on Russian gas between 2010 and 2020, with Poland prepared to be fully independent by the end of 2022.
On the other hand, in this same period, Slovakia, Czechia, Bulgaria, and Hungary still imported more than 70% of the gas they consumed from Russia. From this group, only Bulgaria reduced its dependency on Russian gas compared to 2010.
How does our region compare with other EU countries?
Due to geographical proximity and shared history, our countries are still more dependent on Russian gas than other parts of the EU are. On average, only 29% of the gas consumed in Europe in 2020 came from Putin’s state. A properly calculated (weighted) average for our region would probably be closer to 40%. (The data used here does not allow me to calculate an exact weighted average.)
On the other hand, our “regional dependence” on Russian gas has been visibly falling over the last several years while increasing for the EU as a whole. The most notable example of increased dependency is Germany. In 2010 only 29% of total gas consumed by the country came from Russia, whereas in 2020, that figure had climbed to 59%.
Returning to the main question, quitting gas imports from Russia could be relatively easy for the Baltic states. They are small economies with access to the sea. It is technically more complicated for other countries, not only those from our region but also for the rest of Europe. We are, however, fully aware that heavy reliance on one source for energy supplies – especially a highly problematic source – is not economically viable. After the Russian invasion of Ukraine and its recent decision to halt gas supplies to Poland and Bulgaria, this awareness is much more widespread than in our region only.