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Target Germany if you want Russia gas ban, Parliament president tells climate activists

European Parliament President Roberta Metsola on Monday told climate activists they “need to be louder” and target Germany if they want the EU to ban Russian gas imports.

“You need to be louder … [with] leaders of governments, your prime ministers,” Metsola said on a video seen by POLITICO, as she was confronted by climate activists at a special conference to mark Europe Day in Strasbourg.

Responding to the two campaigners, both of whom are from Poland, after they asked which countries they should focus on, she then said: “All of them, Germany — Germany is number one.”

EU countries are currently haggling over a sixth package of sanctions against Russia that includes a phased ban on Russian oil imports. But the deal is facing resistance from countries including Hungary around the timeframe for bringing in the embargo.

Metsola said she did not believe Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán would block the oil ban entirely. “I don’t think he will,” she told the activists.

Once the terms of oil ban are agreed, the bloc is likely to target Russian gas next. But such a move would likely prove an even greater challenge, given the EU is far more dependent on Russia for gas — 40 percent of its overall supply — compared to coal or oil.

Despite taking steps to unhook itself from Russian gas, Berlin is unlikely to back a plan to immediately ban gas imports from Moscow and says it is aiming for a full phaseout by 2024. Natural gas accounted for just over a quarter of Germany’s energy mix in 2020.

The two climate activists, Dominika Lasota and Wiktoria Jędroszkowiak — campaigners with the Fridays for Future movement launched by Greta Thunberg — said they were not surprised by Metsola’s comments.

“It did not surprise me to hear that it is the German government that she pointed to,” said Lasota. “Since the beginning of our campaign toward the full energy embargo it was clear that German government has been highly influenced by the industry’s lobbyists and got really stuck in the technocratic, money-focused debate instead of prioritizing saving people’s lives.”

Germany’s foreign affairs ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment from POLITICO.

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