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Europe’s Energy Vulnerability: What Do the Protests in Czechia Mean?

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On September 3, 2022, protest demonstrations were held in Czechia with the participation of approximately 70,000 people, and the protesters criticized the government’s policies in the face of rising energy prices.[1] During these protests, it was stated by the demonstrators that the natural gas exchange with Russia should be continued. This indicates that in Europe, which has been trying to display a monolithic image since the beginning of the Russia-Ukraine War on February 24, 2022, cracked voices will begin to rise and the pressure on the governments will increase in parallel with the rise of the objections of the peoples.

As it is known, European states handled the issue within the framework of the European security architecture after Russia’s military intervention in Ukraine, and started to impose sanctions on Russia in order to make the war unsustainable for the Moscow administration. Already, the European Union (EU) has announced seven different sanctions packages against Russia. Along with the sanctions, one of the most talked about issues has been the energy dependence of Europe on Russia. In this context, the EU has sought to diversify its energy suppliers and has adopted the goal of zeroing the dependence on Russian gas. However, the course of the issue in practice reveals that it is not as easy as it seems to eliminate the dependency status.

At this point, it can be stated that the most important problem created by the Russia-Ukraine War is the global energy crisis. As a matter of fact, with the approach of the winter months, many countries are faced with increasing energy prices. This both impoverishes the peoples of Europe and reveals the inadequacy of the EU member states. In this situation, Russia’s announcement on September 4, 2022 that it has cut off the gas flow over Nord Stream-I indefinitely,[2] is a harbinger that the Moscow administration will play the energy card much more harshly, although it is justified for technical reasons. After all, the Kremlin made a statement on September 5, 2022, that directly expressing the purpose of this move, without hiding the background reasons such as technical reasons, and announced that the gas flow would not start until the sanctions were lifted.[3]

Through the energy card, Moscow wants to increase the fragility in Europe, bring the Western states in need of energy to the negotiation table, and ensure that the sanctions are lifted. Because Russia is the aspect with a strong hand in the energy dimension of this power struggle where mutual moves are made. Since, after the Cold War, it was seen that the energy relations developed with the aim of integrating Russia into the international system did not create mutual dependence, and in particular, the Nord Stream-I Gas Pipeline has created a situation that works in favor of the Moscow administration. As a matter of fact, Russia has become a monopoly in the European energy market and the Russian state company Gazprom has reached a monopoly position.

At this point, it should be noted that; it is not possible, at least in the short term, to say that Europe has succeeded or can achieve its goal of diversifying its energy suppliers and thus reducing or even zeroing its dependence on Russian natural gas. This situation makes the collective policy of Europe against Russia since the beginning of the war fragile. As the protests in Czechia show, it can be predicted that with the winter months, the people of Europe will criticize the policies regarding the war much more harshly. This may prevent Continental Europe from developing a monolithic stance.

Already, it is known that Hungary is making contradictory voices in the EU. In this sense, the Budapest administration opposes the imposition of sanctions on Russia in the field of energy, both because it tries to build its foreign policy accordingly with the understanding of versatility by considering the balances between power centers, and because it considers energy dependence. In this sense, it can be stated that Hungary displays a pragmatic and realist approach by considering its own priorities.

It is seen that a similar stance has been developed by Bulgaria recently. Because the Sofia administration, which made some concrete attempts to diversify its energy supplier in the first days of the war, announced that it started negotiations with the Russian energy giant Gazprom, especially after the overthrow of the coalition government and the formation of the interim government.[4]

This situation clearly reveals that the fragility in Europe has increased and that the actors cannot completely sacrifice Moscow beyond short-term reactions due to its energy dependence. Therefore, it can be argued that the number of states such as Hungary and Bulgaria will increase with the winter months. As a matter of fact, the protests in Czechia precursor that the European people will increase the pressure on politicians to adopt an impartial policy during the Russia-Ukraine War.

As a result, it can be argued that Russia, which has applied to use the energy card, can divide the front against it and therefore its hand will be strengthened. Because energy increases the fragility in Europe, and peoples who are impoverished due to rising gas prices put their governments on the target board. This shows that it will become more and more difficult for the West to act collectively, day by day.


[1] “Tens of Thousands Protest in Prague Against Czech Government, EU and NATO”, Euractiv, https://www.euractiv.com/section/elections/news/tens-of-thousands-protest-in-prague-against-czech-government-eu-and-nato/, (Date of Accession: 06.09.2022).

[2] “Gaz Akışı Süresiz Kesildi: Rus Şirketi Gazprom Avrupa’yı Kilitleyecek Kararı Duyurdu”, Yeni Şafak, https://www.yenisafak.com/ekonomi/gaz-akisi-suresiz-kesildi-rus-sirketi-gazprom-avrupayi-kilitleyecek-karari-duyurdu-3856224, (Date of Accession: 06.09.2022).

[3] “Russia Will Not Resume Gas Supplies to Europe Until Sanctions Lifted, Says Moscow”, The Guardian, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2022/sep/05/russia-will-not-resume-gas-supplies-to-europe-until-sanctions-lifted-says-moscow, (Date of Accession: 06.09.2022).

[4] “Bulgaria Says Talks to Resume Russian Gas Supplies Are ‘inevitable’”, Reuters, https://www.reuters.com/markets/europe/bulgaria-says-talks-needed-resume-russian-gas-supplies-2022-08-22/, (Date of Accession: 06.09.2022).

Dr. Doğacan BAŞARAN
Dr. Doğacan BAŞARAN, 2014 yılında Gazi Üniversitesi İktisadi ve İdari Bilimler Fakültesi Uluslararası İlişkiler Bölümü’nden mezun olmuştur. Yüksek lisans derecesini, 2017 yılında Giresun Üniversitesi Sosyal Bilimler Enstitüsü Uluslararası İlişkiler Anabilim Dalı’nda sunduğu ‘’Uluslararası Güç İlişkileri Bağlamında İkinci Dünya Savaşı Sonrası Hegemonik Mücadelelerin İncelenmesi’’ başlıklı teziyle almıştır. Doktora derecesini ise 2021 yılında Trakya Üniversitesi Sosyal Bilimler Enstitüsü Uluslararası İlişkiler Anabilim Dalı‘nda hazırladığı “İmparatorluk Düşüncesinin İran Dış Politikasına Yansımaları ve Milliyetçilik” başlıklı teziyle alan Başaran’ın başlıca çalışma alanları Uluslararası ilişkiler kuramları, Amerikan dış politikası, İran araştırmaları ve Afganistan çalışmalarıdır. Başaran iyi derecede İngilizce ve temel düzeyde Farsça bilmektedir.