December 1, 2022

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Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas believes Norway has an ethical problem with the war in Ukraine

Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas believes Norway has an ethical problem with the war in Ukraine

There is grumbling in the corners, but few heads of state and government in Europe will say it openly. Except for Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas.

– At this time there is definitely a question of whether it is ethical to profit so much from the misfortune of others, Kallas tells TV2.

– Do you have any advice on what Norway should do about this?

– This is an interesting problem for you because no one else has this problem. Of course, a piece of advice is not to charge so much for energy, because your friends in Europe are suffering from high prices. “We spend more money in our budget to keep prices down and help people through the winter,” says Gallas.

This week, the EU will adopt some form of price cap on gas. The same applies to Norway, the EU’s biggest gas supplier at the moment.

Suffering: Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas reminds Norway that many people in Europe have huge problems paying their energy bills. His suggestion is to lower gas prices. Photo: Santiago Vergara/TV2

See Prime Minister Jonas Karstor’s response on the matter further below.

High electricity prices are felt in Norway, but electricity support has so far been limited in many countries in Europe. Therefore, higher electricity prices have affected more than Norway. Next year, Norway will spend NOK 40 billion in electricity subsidies.

Too little gas: High electricity prices in Europe because demand for energy exceeds supply.  The war in Ukraine has seen Norway overtake Russia as the EU's largest gas supplier.  Photo: Bors Isza Ferenc

Too little gas: High electricity prices in Europe because demand for energy exceeds supply. The war in Ukraine has seen Norway overtake Russia as the EU’s largest gas supplier. Photo: Bors Isza Ferenc

Already in 2020, a total of 35 million people in the EU could not heat their homes due to high prices. Today, this number is much higher.

In a corner in the middle of Europe, the borders of Belgium, the Netherlands and Germany meet.

– Good to close

On the Belgium side, Gaston Ernst owns a bakery with his wife Chantal. He says that when people’s finances are tight, the sweetness of life is lost first.

Ditching Sweets: Baker Gaston Ernst observes that people ditch cakes and other sweet treats when their finances are tight.  Photo: Santiago Vergara/TV2

Ditching Sweets: Baker Gaston Ernst observes that people ditch cakes and other sweet treats when their finances are tight. Photo: Santiago Vergara/TV2

– Bread is still sold, Gaston says, but baked goods are selling less and points to the attractive cakes on the counter. He still manages financially but dreads the annual electricity bill.

The price of electricity from energy companies has increased by more than 500 percent in one year in the EU. His colleague is in a bad mood.

The colleague regularly pays NOK 23,000 a year in electricity bills for his four baking ovens. The bill has now almost quadrupled.

– He must pay NOK 80,000. Show it. Then Gaston says he better shut up and throws his hands out in frustration.

Fear of power cuts

Luxembourg Prime Minister Xavier Bettel praised Norway for supplying gas to Europe.

ROSSER: Luxembourg's Prime Minister Xavier Bettel has praised Norway for increased gas supplies to Europe.  His biggest fear is power shortages and blackouts this winter.  Photo: Santiago Vergara/TV2

ROSSER: Luxembourg’s Prime Minister Xavier Bettel has praised Norway for increased gas supplies to Europe. His biggest fear is power shortages and blackouts this winter. Photo: Santiago Vergara/TV2

Norway now supplies about 40 percent of European gas demand, whereas Russia previously supplied the same amount. Russian gas now accounts for only 9 percent of Europe’s demand.

Many countries in the European Union produce electricity from gas. The use of gas for heating and cooking is also common in many countries. Gas prices are at historic highs, so electricity will be more expensive.

Still, Bettel worries about what could happen in Europe this winter. There may be too little energy to meet demand.

– Actually, a blackout is the worst thing that could happen, he says.

Cut dry hair without dryness

Across the Belgian border is the German city of Aachen. Germany is the EU country most dependent on Russian gas.

Liliane Ghazanfari’s hair salon is quiet today. She is alone with two children of primary school age. Prices in the EU have increased by ten percent in the past year. It is worth noting.

The product: Hairstylist Lilian Ghazanfari believes that if there is no electricity, clients will avoid blow-drying their hair.  Now she feels inflation.  Photo: Santiago Vergara/TV2

The product: Hairstylist Lilian Ghazanfari believes that if there is no electricity, clients will avoid blow-drying their hair. Now she feels inflation. Photo: Santiago Vergara/TV2

– When I bought a full shopping cart in the past, I paid 50 euros. Now it certainly costs twice as much, says Lilian.

In case of power shortage, he is ready to increase the price and give concessions according to the customers. She may have to stop drying clients’ hair because of the cost of electricity.

– If it is very bad, we should cut the hair without washing it.

However, she doesn’t let fear rule her and doesn’t worry too much about what might come next. Germany is also in the process of accepting a massive electricity support package of 200 million euros. At the same time, the German government has been reluctant to introduce some form of price cap on gas in order to push down energy prices. Similarly to the annoyance of other EU countries who are unlikely to support their citizens.

– As long as there is no war here, my children and I can go to school, work… and the only problem is that even if it were convenient, I can’t turn on the heat. “If that’s my only problem, it’s going really well,” Lillian says with a smile.

Thinks of war as an ethical problem

Norway and many other EU countries do not want a price cap on gas.

– Prices are too high. Nor does Norway benefit from it. So we understand that you want to do something about it. The bottom line is that you are out of gas. The demand is very high. “What we’re warning against is doing things that make the problem worse,” says Prime Minister Jonas Gerstor.

Disagree: Prime Minister Jonas Karstor disagrees with those who think it is a problem for Norway to make billions from the war in Ukraine.  He says the ethics of war is a problem.  Photo: Santiago Vergara/TV2

Disagree: Prime Minister Jonas Karstor disagrees with those who think it is a problem for Norway to make billions from the war in Ukraine. He says the ethics of war is a problem. Photo: Santiago Vergara/TV2

Opponents argue that when gas shortages are a problem, the solution is not to make them cheaper. Then there is the risk of gas being sold elsewhere in the world, including Asian countries.

The store refuses to give a discount on gas.

– Not Norway that sells gas. Norway permits gas extraction and gas exploration. Then Norwegian and European companies supply the gas.

He emphasizes that these are private enterprises, although some are partly state-owned.

– Now it has become a political issue. Why “outsource” it to companies?

– So I’m not the one to sit down and negotiate. Not a single Norwegian prime minister has ever sat down and negotiated a gas deal. In 50 years we were a dynamic country, it is not like that.

He disagreed with the Estonian prime minister’s open criticism that Norway making billions from the war in Ukraine was an ethical problem.

– War is an ethical problem. This creates huge imbalances. Norway, as an energy provider, knows when prices are low and when prices are high, they put the income into the Norwegian pension fund for future generations. Storr says it does not enter the Norwegian state budget.

He insists that Norway will give Ukraine 1 billion euros, 10 billion kroner this year and next year.

Cooperation: Norway and the EU are working together to lower energy prices, but Prime Minister Jonas Karstor does not want a price cap on gas.  Photo: Santiago Vergara/TV2

Cooperation: Norway and the EU are working together to lower energy prices, but Prime Minister Jonas Karstor does not want a price cap on gas. Photo: Santiago Vergara/TV2

Storr and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen agreed that energy prices are too high. The EU and Norway have set up a working group to work on these questions.

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