The European Union cannot ban Russian natural gas, as the step would harm EU members more than Russia, Austrian Chancellor Karl Nehammer warned on Thursday, as cited by Austrian media outlets.
Chancellor Nehammer made the comments during a visit to Vienna by Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban.
“Sanctions must hit those against whom they are directed more, but not harm those who decide them,” Nehammer told the Austria Press Agency.
A ban on gas supplies from Russia – an idea that has been circulating within the EU since Moscow started its military operation in Ukraine – would lead to a domino effect in Europe, the Austrian chancellor suggested.
“Austria’s position is that an embargo on gas is impossible. Not only because Austria depends on Russian gas, the German industry also depends on it, and if it collapses, the Austrian industry will also collapse, and we will face mass unemployment,” Nehammer said, as cited by Lenta.ru.
Viktor Orban criticized the gas rationing plan approved by the EU – which aims to reduce gas consumption within the bloc by 15% from August to March next year – earlier this week.
According to the Hungarian PM, the mandatory rationing of natural gas is “the first sign of a war economy,” and warned of a possible recession and unemployment in Europe.
Europe has seen reduced gas flow from Russia – a major supplier – due to technical issues at a major pipeline.
Nord Stream 1 is currently operating at 20% capacity.
The reduction comes as the continent is trying to top up its gas reserves ahead of the heating season.
The EU pledged earlier this year to end the bloc’s reliance on Russian energy.
A partial embargo on oil was agreed upon, but several rounds of sanctions have not included similar restrictions on Russian natural gas.