Berlin – The main shareholder of the struggling gas importer Uniper, Finland, rejected a request from a senior German minister for additional financial assistance on Saturday, igniting a dispute between Germany and Finland over the price of saving the struggling company.
The largest gas importer and retailer in Germany, Uniper, asked for a bailout from the German government this week, warning that losses from reduced Russian supplies and rising gas prices could total 10 billion euros ($10 billion) this year.
German Economy Minister Robert Habeck has called for drastic measures to save money, such as Germans taking shorter showers, as Germany faces a serious energy crisis. Fortum, the largest shareholder of Uniper, is a state-owned energy company in Finland, so it should help with the rescue.
According to Habeck, who is also the energy minister, “It (Uniper) belongs to someone, someone who is solvent and can provide support,” in a radio interview with Deutschlandfunk. “Therefore, it is appropriate to consider models where the owners also have a responsibility.”
Fortum responded that it had already provided 8 billion euros in loans and guarantees to Uniper, which has proposed ringfencing Uniper’s German businesses under government ownership.
Markus Rauram, chief executive of Fortum, stated via email that “the German security of supply businesses need to be owned by the federal state that has the required strong creditworthiness” due to the possibility that gas prices will continue to rise.
The challenge is significant for Finland, whose economy is 13 times smaller than Germany’s and has a population that is 15 times smaller.
Tytti Tuppurainen, Finland’s minister for Europe, stated in an email that “the rescue of Uniper is a matter of European importance.” We urgently demand that the state ringfence and protect Uniper’s vulnerable, system-critical businesses in Germany.
Germany is struggling to manage the effects of supply constraints after benefiting for years from consistent flows of affordable Russian gas.
While the West accuses Moscow of using technical issues as an excuse, Moscow claims that the West imposed crippling sanctions as a result of its invasion of Ukraine.
In order to ensure that gas storages are full by the winter, Germany has set aside 15 billion euros in public funds to purchase gas from other countries. However, Habeck urged the public to conserve energy and cautioned that if gas prices continued to rise, that may not be enough.
Germans take 10-minute showers on average, he said. “And I believe that even five minutes is excessive.”
Habeck suggested that workplace heating could be turned down, and some housing associations have already stated that they will lower the heating temperatures in their homes and apartments this winter.
Olaf Scholz, the chancellor of Germany, stated in a video statement on Saturday that Germany’s concern over energy security would last “for the coming weeks, months, and years.”
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