by Knar Khudoyan
Resilience and decentralization: the articles published in the German press over the past month, if not the past year were filled with these two terms already perceived as buzzwords. Journalists question as to how Germany came to be so dependent on Russian gas (50 percent of the gas supplied to Germany was Russian until 2021), why decentralization of sources was not done earlier, and why the infrastructure lacks resilience.
The war that broke out in Ukraine in February 2022 and the Nord Stream pipeline sabotage in September of the same year forced German journalists to investigate the causes of the energy crisis and reveal those guilty. Sometimes these searches point to 2015, when, ignoring the annexation of Crimea, the German government decided to launch Nord Stream 2, other times they point to 2011, when Nord Stream 1 was opened, despite an obvious conflict of interest: the 100% Russian gas pipeline board was chaired by German ex-chancellor Gerhard Schröder. Some go even further back, to the 1950s when FRG’s cooperation with the Soviet Union began.
“In 2015, there were people who said that if the two Nord Streams were established, Russia would no longer depend on Ukraine, which is a transit country. And Russia would attack Ukraine. Our politicians did not take such analyses seriously,” says Claudia von Salzen, who covers foreign policy for the Tagesspiegel daily.
Those promoting the deal with Russia claimed that the German industry needed gas and that this was merely an economic deal with no political overtones.
Although the construction of Nord Stream 2 was completed last year, it didn’t start operating as the company lacked technical permissions. Russia reduced the gas supply on different pretenses to speed up the approval process. Тhis pressure, however, didn’t work, and with a ban on Nord Stream 2, Germany is looking for alternative sources of energy.
Claudia believes that launching Nord Stream 2 was the biggest mistake of Merkel’s government.
Short-term and long-term solutions
If foreign policy issues are discussed among politicians and journalists writing on energy, the general public is more concerned about price hikes and possible deindustrialization. Rising prices affect everyone, and so does the possible closing of jobs.
“People are angry that they will pay more for gas, and that the prices are going up. Demonstrations are taking place in different cities. I thought angry people would ask why we should pay for the government’s mistakes, but they often say something else – let’s open the Nord Stream, and all our problems will disappear. And this is what Russian propaganda is trying to take advantage of.”
Ralph Diermann, a Munich-based freelance journalist covering energy issues, notes that the Government will “freeze” the minimum gas consumption prices for the winter. However, the prices for other products have also increased, particularly for food, and government regulations are not going to help with this.
Through another program, the government will subsidize the costs of thermal insulation of houses.
Media also focuses on the sensational appeals by politicians to save, to heat only the dining room, to skip the daily shower, etc., which enrages those who do so anyway.
“One official stated that he doesn’t take a bath every day. It’s very personal information, and that’s why it caused a big sensation,” says Ralph.
Pictures of the price hikes protests appear mostly in the yellow press, such as the Bild tabloid, which blames the government.
“The current government is new, and it is unfair to blame them for the mistakes of the previous government. It is an ironic situation when the Minister of Energy, a representative of the Green Party, chooses to extend the lifespan of nuclear power and coal plants, something that the greens have always been against. Everyone agrees that these are short-term solutions”, says Ralph Diermann.
Regardless of political disagreements, all quality media have a consensus on this issue: the decisions should be short-term and long-term. This year’s winter is a challenge, and it is not possible to quickly switch to renewable energy. Everyone understands that in terms of political risks importing energy carriers from Qatar is no less problematic than importing them from Russia. However, in the short run, it is necessary to opt for other fossil fuel deliveries. But in the long run, Germany is committed to switching to renewable energy. There is a government plan to expand the wind and solar power infrastructure.
Industrial businesses see this as an opportunity rather than a threat. Since it is already possible to obtain hydrogen from renewable energy sources, companies are not against transforming the existing technologies.
It is not clear whether the former governments will be held responsible for their political decisions, however, quality journalism in Germany will not miss the important details.
This article was published within the frames of “Correspondents in Conflict” Project,
implemented by Yerevan Press Club and Deutsche Gesellschaft e. V. The Project is
funded by the German Federal Foreign Office within the “Eastern Partnership Program”.
The contents of this article are the sole responsibility of the implementing partners and can in
no way be taken to reflect the views of the Federal Foreign Office. #civilsocietycooperation
Knar Khudoyan is a journalist based in Yerevan, currently writing analytical pieces for media.am. She has worked for 11 years in local newsrooms and for international outlets covering socio-political issues in Armenia. Knar is a graduate of Yerevan State Linguistic University, former fellow at RFE/RL, former staff writer at epress.am. Her stories have appeared on opendemocracy.net, oc-media.org and euronews.