Event highlight

The war in Ukraine and the future of European energy policy

Energy and security experts discuss embargos and Germany’s response to Russian aggression.

To embargo or not to embargo? How should policymakers deal with soaring energy prices? Should the EU continue implementing its Green Deal as suggested by the European Commission’s Fit for 55 package?

These have been some of the most pressing questions in recent weeks as Russia’s war in Ukraine rages on, all while Europe continues to depend on Russian energy supplies. The repercussions of the war on German and EU energy policies was the subject of a panel discussion on 21 April 2022, held online at the Hertie School and organised by the Centre for Sustainability.

Christian Flachsland, Director of the Centre for Sustainability and Professor of Sustainability moderated the event with panellists Marina Henke, Director of the Hertie School Centre for International Security and Professor of International Relations; Lion Hirth, Assistant Professor of Governance of Digitalisation and Energy Policy; and Ingrid Nestle, Member of Parliament and energy expert for the Greens in the German Bundestag.

Germany failed at deterring Russia in the first place

Analysing the security aspects of the current energy crisis, Marina Henke criticised the German Government for failing to live up to its promises of a historical turning point, or “Zeitenwende” in the words of Olaf Scholz. According to Henke, Scholz’s three-party coalition “completely failed at deterring Russia” from war in the first place. Moreover, with regards to the impact of embargos in general, she expressed scepticism: “Embargos rarely lead to regime change, and so far the sanctions in place had no real effect on Russian society.”

There is one embargo that has already been in place for quite a long time, noted energy expert Lion Hirth, acknowledging the Russian-inflicted energy crises that started almost a year ago, when state-owned Russian company Gazprom reduced its supply to the European market. “Europe should have reacted to this economic threat way earlier,” he said.

But one reason why politicians from Paris to Berlin did not react earlier was perhaps because consumers did not yet face soaring prices and changes that would affect their daily lives. “Societies are still in a sleepy mode and don’t feel the urgency of this situation,” observed Ingrid Nestle, energy expert from the Greens in the German parliament, who urged every household to start cutting energy consumption. While this would likely not change Putin’s mind about the war, she admitted, it would still be a good start to avoid further dependence on Russian energy.

A recording of the event is available here.

The Hertie School is not responsible for any content linked or referred to from these pages. Views expressed by the author/interviewee may not necessarily reflect the views and values of the Hertie School.

More about our experts

  • Christian Flachsland, Professor of Climate Policy | Director, Centre for Sustainability
  • Marina Henke, Professor of International Relations | Director, Centre for International Security
  • Lion Hirth, Professor of Energy Policy