Geo-Economics and Politics

How much energy does the EU import from Russia?

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Europe is heavily dependent on Russia for its oil and gas. Image: UNSPLASH/Matthew Henry

Charlotte Edmond
Senior Writer, Forum Agenda
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  • The EU’s Russian energy imports were worth $108 billion (€99bn) in 2021, down from $173 billion (€157bn) in 2012.
  • Russia is the EU’s fifth-largest trading partner for exports, and third-largest for imports.
  • COVID-19 had a significant impact on trading goods between Russia and the EU, but there was a rebound after 2020.
  • Since Russia invaded Ukraine, the US, EU and UK have all announced restrictions on fossil fuel imports from the country.

Europe is heavily dependent on Russia for its oil and gas. In 2021, two-fifths of the gas Europeans burned came from Russia. And over a quarter of the EU’s imported crude oil comes from Russia.

In 2021, the EU imported $108 billion (€99bn) worth of energy from Russia, by far its biggest import from the country.

But the volume the EU has been importing has fallen significantly in the past decade. In 2012, the EU imported $173 billion (€157bn) worth of energy from Russia.

A chart showing how Europe relies on others for natural gas.
The majority of EU gas is imported from Russia. Image: EIA

In the 10 years between 2011 and 2021, energy imports have dropped from 77% of trade to 62%. In contrast, imports of manufactured goods, machinery and vehicles, chemicals, raw materials and food and drink have all increased in value over this period.

Infographic showing EU trade with Russia.
The EU imports less Russian oil and gas than it used to. Image: Eurostat

Russia is one of the EU’s major trading partners.

More broadly than just fuel, both the EU’s imports to and exports from Russia have decreased in the past decade.

In 2021, Russia was Europe’s fifth-largest trading partner for EU exports of goods, after the US, UK, China and Switzerland. And it was the third-largest for EU imports of goods, after China and the US.

The trading relationship between the EU and Russia was significantly impacted by COVID-19 in 2020. The EU’s trade deficit fell to $17.6 billion (€16bn), the lowest level over the past decade. By 2021 it had risen again to $75.9 billion (€69bn), but still down on the 2011 figure of $97.9 billion (€89bn).

Graph showing EU trade with Russia
Since 2012, imports and exports between the EU and Russia have decreased. Image: Eurostat

Among the member states, the three largest importers of Russian goods in 2021 were Germany, the Netherlands and Poland. This trio was also the largest exporter of goods to Russia.

The impact of the Ukraine invasion

The US, EU and UK have all announced that they will curb Russian oil and gas imports in light of the invasion of Ukraine.

This includes a plan by the EU to cut its reliance on Russian gas by two-thirds by the end of the year. It is also fast forwarding plans to make the EU independent of Russian fossil fuels by 2030.

This will mean the EU both finding alternative sources for its gas in the short term, as well as boosting efficiency and the transition to greener alternatives.

Europe has already witnessed skyrocketing energy prices this winter, and since Russia invaded Ukraine, the price of oil and gas has risen sharply. The European Commission is rolling out a number of measures to get costs back onto an even keel.

In a statement, Commission president Ursula von der Leyen said: “We must become independent from Russian oil, coal and gas ... we need to act now to mitigate the impact of rising energy prices, diversify our gas supply for next winter and accelerate the clean energy transition.”

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