With Russia’s oil and gas sanctions still in place and the energy crisis continuing in Europe, France is attempting to import oil from the UAE to replace Russia’s gas.
It was on this Monday that the United Arab Emirate offered to send diesel oil to France. The move was announced as fears are still growing about Russia’s potential blocking of gas supplies to Europe as retaliation for EU sanctions over Moscow’s attack on Ukraine.
The announcement followed a personal visit between the UAE President, Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al-Nahyan, and his French counterpart Emmanuel Macron in Paris the same day.
During his first official visit outside the Gulf region since taking office in May, Sheikh Mohammed said to Macron that “collaboration across the energy of all kinds is critical, and the UAE is committed to supporting energy security to all people, especially France,”
Macron hosted the UAE President at the Élysée Palace in an official ceremony. The two discussed joint actions to address a number of issues in the fields of “future energy, climate change, and advanced technology.” They also agreed to boost their bilateral relations on regional security and stability.
“I think it [the visit] is a sign of appreciation towards France that’s perceived in the UAE as a reliable partner in the region,” said Anne Gadel, a Gulf expert at the MENA Observatory of Jean Jaurès Foundation this Monday.
Especially in the field of energy cooperation, the two countries inked a strategic agreement to identify joint investment projects in France, the UAE, or elsewhere in the energy sectors including hydrogen, renewable and nuclear energy. “In the currently uncertain energy context, this agreement will pave the way for a stable long-term framework for cooperation, opening the way for new industrial contracts,” the French government said in a statement Monday.
A cold winter ahead of Europe
After the breakout of war between Russia and Ukraine back on February 24, the United States and other Western states imposed extensive sanctions against Russia to show support for Ukraine.
The sanctions are mostly targeting Moscow’s main sources of income, which are oil and gas exports. This, however, has created a chaotic situation in the energy sector in the US and EU countries ever since, leading to both shortage and rising prices of petrol in these countries.
Good to mention that more than 40 percent of the EU energy demands come from Russia, and Moscow is highly expected to try to make the EU feel the pain as well by blocking its gas flow to Europe and deepening its energy crisis for the cold month ahead. For this reason, other oil-rich countries such as Saudi Arabia and the UAE are good alternatives that both the US and Europe can count on for their energy demands in the absence of Russia.
Upon the continuation of the rise in gas prices in US and EU countries, Washington and Brussels demanded Riyadh and Abu Dhabi increase their oil production. The two Persian Gulf countries, however, have only been marginally increasing their production since the beginning of the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Still, they have not been willing to do this as dramatically as Western countries want them to.
The bad news for the EU is that Russia has already cut off or reduced gas supplies to a dozen of European countries. The giant Nord Stream 1 pipeline between Russia and Germany, for example, was closed last week.
Russia alleged that it did so for maintenance purposes. Yet Germany has every reason to be worried that flows will not restart. And now, it seems the UAE is the new savor. France and the UAE has relations since 1976. France is in fact one of the main foreign investors in the UAE, with over 2.5 billion euros investing in this Persian Gulf country by the end of 2020.
But not all EU countries are so lucky to find an alternative for their energy needs. the question now is whether the UAE can supply the required energy for other EU countries as well? Or better say, does Abu Dhabi has the capacity to save other European nations from the cold winter ahead? Time will tell.