“At this stage it is a political agreement, so there was no formal vote. However, there was overwhelming consensus and only one member state expressed its opposition,” diplomatic sources said.

The political agreement was reached at the extraordinary Energy Council in Brussels, in which the 27 reached a compromise on the proposal presented by the European Commission with a view to reducing gas consumption by 15% between August 2022 and April 2023, but already with new exceptions to cover the “geographical or physical situation” of countries.

In a statement, the Czech presidency of the Council of the EU notes that, “in an effort to increase the security of the EU's energy supply, Member States reached a political agreement on a voluntary reduction in natural gas by 15% this winter”, and the “possibility of triggering a 'Union alert' on security of supply, in which case the reduction in gas demand would become mandatory”.

The proposal was initially opposed by countries including Portugal, Spain, Greece and Poland, namely due to the lack of energy interconnection with the rest of Europe, but derogations were later introduced to take into account specificities such as high dependence on electricity production from gas, lack of synchronisation with the European electricity grid or lack of direct interconnection in gas.

It is now envisaged that these Member States may “request a waiver to adapt their demand reduction obligations if they have limited interconnections to other Member States and can demonstrate that their interconnection export capabilities or their domestic LNG infrastructure are used to redirect gas to others”.

In addition, “they may also apply for a derogation if they have exceeded their gas storage filling targets, if they are heavily dependent on gas as a raw material for critical industries or if their gas consumption has increased by at least 8% in the last year compared to the average of the last five years”.