The war in Ukraine has led some to reassess Ms Merkel’s legacy. She retired last year after 16 years in office. Critics argue her pro-Kremlin stance left Germany over-reliant on Russian gas to heat homes and drive domestic industry.
Despite promising to wean itself off Russian fossil fuels by mid-2024, Berlin on Monday faced renewed pressure from Western allies to impose an immediate embargo on imports.
Germany’s defence minister, Christine Lambrecht, said Berlin would be willing to discuss a ban on Russian gas but was soon overruled amid fears that an immediate boycott could tip Germany into recession.
“We have to isolate Russia, we have to cut all economic relations, but at the moment it’s not possible to cut the gas supplies,” Christian Lindner, Germany’s finance minister said, ahead of a meeting with eurozone colleagues.
He suggested the bloc could instead target Russian oil and gas exports, which would be less costly for the European economy but also less painful for the Kremlin, saying: “We must plan tough sanctions, but gas cannot be substituted in the short term. We would inflict more damage on ourselves than on them.”
Germany is heavily dependent on Russian gas, which made up to 55 percent of its imports by the time of the Feb 24 invasion of Ukraine.
Emmanuel Macron, the French president – whose country imports 20 per cent of its gas from Russia – also suggested oil and coal exports would be a more realistic victim of the EU’s fifth round of sanctions.