Germany’s energy bailout is too little too late if Putin turns off taps

The mission to save Uniper will be a fascinating test case of continental unity as a row breaks out about who should pick up the tab. The company is 78pc-owned by Finland’s state-backed nuclear supplier Fortum, so predictably Germany believes that the Finnish state should shoulder some of the costs.

Unsurprisingly, this is not a view that appears to be popular among prominent Finns. Riikka Purra, chair of the right wing opposition Finns Party, has argued that Germany must take responsibility for its failed energy policy.

It’s not an unfair assertion given the extent to which Germany built its 21st century energy system on access to cheap Russian supplies at the expense of domestic coal and nuclear power, or more clean energy.

It’s a stance that has cross-party support including the backing of government minister Tytti Tuppurainen, who has rejected any chance of Finland stepping in, pointing out that the country has already provided an €8bn credit line.

She also points out that pumping further cash into Uniper is akin to throwing good money after bad because high gas prices “will not go away in the near future”. Finland has proposed an alternative plan in which the company is broken up and its gas and coal power assets end up in the hands of the German state, while its hydro and nuclear power interests remain under the ownership of Fortum.

A bailout isn’t entirely irrational. With Berlin in control, it can cushion customers from the shock of spiraling prices by forcing the business to take even bigger losses.

But that money will have to be recovered eventually, most likely in the form of higher bills, and Germany’s core problem remains an overwhelming and dangerous dependency on Moscow. Without a plan to address this extreme supply-side imbalance, the country still faces a bleak winter if Putin turns off the taps altogether.


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