December 7, 2022

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The EU’s top official has pledged to conduct a ‘stress test’ of pipelines after the leaks

The EU's top official has pledged to conduct a 'stress test' of pipelines after the leaks

BRUSSELS – The head of the European Union’s executive arm pledged on Wednesday to conduct checks on key EU infrastructure, including energy, after suspected sabotage of natural gas pipelines in the Baltic Sea.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said last week’s damage to Nord Stream pipelines linking Russia and Germany “showed how vulnerable our energy infrastructure is” and that a comprehensive plan was needed to ensure the integrity of key EU networks, including data.

“We need to stress our infrastructure,” von der Leyen told the European Parliament in Strasbourg, France. “We need to determine if we have weaknesses and where those weaknesses are.” It also said that satellite monitoring will be used to detect potential threats.

Amid Russia’s seven-month war against Ukraine and Western military support for the Ukrainian government, Nord Stream damage was caused by undersea explosions caused by several hundred pounds of explosives at four locations off southern Sweden and Denmark. The explosions caused a major leak of methane gas into the Baltic Sea.

Because EU countries are responsible for overseeing energy and other essential infrastructure in the bloc, von der Leyen said its push for safety would include national capitals.

“We will work with member states to ensure that effective stress tests are conducted in the energy sector,” she said. Then other high-risk sectors, such as digital infrastructure and offshore electricity, should follow.

Also in Strasbourg, the European Union’s foreign policy chief Josep Borrell predicted on Wednesday that the 27 national governments would agree to impose new sanctions on Russia in response to its illegal annexation of four regions of Ukraine that make up about 15% of Ukraine’s territory.

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The new sanctions planned include a cap on Russian oil prices, restrictions on EU exports of aircraft components to the country, and restrictions on imports of Russian steel. Diplomats from European Union member states were aiming to have the new package approved as soon as Wednesday in Brussels.

The new sanctions build on the already unprecedented European sanctions against Russia as a result of its war against Ukraine since February.

The EU’s measures so far include restrictions on energy supplies from Russia, a ban on financial transactions with Russian entities including the central bank and an asset freeze against more than 1,000 people and more than 100 entities.