After the Russian-Ukrainian War started, primarily the European Union (EU), the United States (US), Switzerland, the United Kingdom (UK), Japan, and Australia showed an effort to isolate the Moscow administration from the international arena. The Kremlin, on the other hand, responded to the sanctions towards itself with energy. However, it can be said that the policy of the West to exulcerate Russia, is backlashed. Because, the Western states struggling with their suppliers of gas, that is Russia, caused an energy crisis.
Even though it has been eight months since the war in Ukraine started, the EU, which continued its sanctions, started to search for solutions to the energy crisis. In terms of this search, they have been inclined to different alternatives. In this framework, while agreements with Azerbaijan, Israel, and Egypt were signed, the negotiations continue with Turkmenistan, Algeria, Qatar, and Nigeria.
On the other hand, the EU publishes different suggestions on energy security while it repeats energy-saving calls. As a matter of fact, on October 18, 2022, the President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen asked the member states to act jointly on natural gas imports to prevent the increase in natural gas and electricity prices and to ensure the stability of the EU energy market in the long term. Therefore, a negotiation process is being carried out for the member states to show solidarity in energy. However, the continuation of the EU’s sanctions policy and the measures taken to save energy is met with a reaction by the people of the relevant countries. The fact that the energy crisis is being felt more and more every day affects many sectors, especially industry. For this reason, the increase in living costs, especially natural gas prices, leads to protests targeting governments.
Already, demonstrations in countries such as Germany, Belgium, Czechoslovakia, France, and Italy have been criticized for their energy policies and protested against the cost of living. For example, citizens in Czechoslovakia, which currently holds the rotating EU presidency, have demanded that the country sign direct gas supply contracts with Russia at low prices, while also reacting to the government’s approach to limiting energy prices. At the urging of trade unions in Italy, people in most cities, particularly Milan and Turin, joined by the slogan “War on the Cost of Living”, burning electricity and gas bills.
In Belgium, about 10 thousand demonstrators protested the rising energy and food prices. Likewise, protests in France tend to grow. During the demonstrations in which thousands of workers from different professions took to the streets, violent incidents took place, and, in this context, eleven people were detained on October 19, 2022. In addition, half of the refinery capacity in France was closed due to strikes by energy sector workers and the spread of these actions to different cities. It is thought that if the strikes continue, major supply problems may occur at the petrol stations.
It is also noteworthy that labor unions in Belgium and Poland have announced their support for French demonstrators. This indicates that the actions could be spread to other European countries as well. Therefore, the energy crisis in Europe may lead to the growth of street demonstrations and the emergence of serious economic problems.
It can be said that governments have experienced difficult processes due to similar demonstrations in different countries of Europe. As a matter of fact, upon the announcement that nuclear power plants would continue to operate in Germany, the Greens, the anti-nuclear partner of the coalition government led by Olaf Scholz, and the Free Democratic Party (FDP) disagreed. While the FDP opposed the shutdown of electricity sources, the anti-nuclear Greens argued that the plants should be shut down by the end of 2022. German Chancellor Scholz announced that the three operating nuclear power plants will remain in service until April 15, 2023.
On the other hand, it remains unclear how the EU countries, which agreed on new sanctions following Russia’s partial mobilization decision and the threat of using nuclear weapons, will respond to the protests. However, the fact is that the EU is in a very difficult situation vis-à-vis Russia. Therefore, it can be argued that the continuation of the EU’s strict sanctions policy will backfire and the demonstrations will evolve into much bigger uprisings.
In light of these developments, European public opinion may be disturbed by the sanctions leveled at Russia. As a result, more and more people are arguing that sanctions should be backpedaled. It should be emphasized that developments at this point have accelerated the rise of the far right in Europe. Therefore, it can be seen that the far right going up because of the high inflation brought about by the energy crisis. This could highlight far-right parties in the EU and lead to an increase in the number of right-wing governments. It is also possible to read the results of the elections in Italy from this perspective. As a result, it is understandable that far-right parties in countries such as France, Germany, Czechia, and Belgium — where anti-government protests have taken place — have gained a big advantage.
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