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EU Parliament touts Russia oil, gas import phase-out

 

 

By Dafydd ab Iago / Argus

BRUSSELS
Petroleumworld 09 16 2021

The European Parliament today called for the EU to phase out imports of Russian gas, oil and other raw materials, notably iron, steel, aluminium and nickel. The call was made in a resolution on EU-Russia relations that advocates consideration of further sanctions against Moscow's oil and gas sector and the country's exclusion from the Swift international payment system.

The move is not only symbolic, even if EU member states in principle have the right to determine their energy mixes and the general structure of energy supply. Member states, too, not parliament, decide on sanctions by unanimity with no input from the legislature. But the parliament's call for action does reflect concerns about Russian policy, and parliament will further this agenda when agreeing changes to EU energy-market and climate legislation.

The EU should be prepared to "phase out its imports of oil and gas from Russia" if there is "further aggressive behaviour", parliament said, and it called for an EU strategy to end dependency on Russian energy and other raw materials based on "rapid" implementation of climate measures.

The EU also needs to "immediately" implement reverse natural gas flow capabilities and further diversify energy supply with new capacities for LNG, it said. Russian state-controlled Gazprom's planned 55bn m³/yr Nord Stream 2 (NS2) gas pipeline should be "immediately" halted and "not be put into use under the current circumstances even if its construction is completed". It said the pipeline, which may be physically ready for commissioning but which needs German regulatory approval, is incompatible with intra-EU solidarity and goes against the goal of reducing the bloc's greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by at least 55pc by 2030 and achieving net-zero GHG emissions by 2050.

Addressing parliament, EU foreign affairs chief Josep Borrell Fontelles did not mention NS2, which has brought Germany into conflict with Poland, the Baltic states and Slovakia, as well as with non-EU member Ukraine. But Borrell did say Russia, even if a "medium-sized" economy, wants to divide the EU. Remaining united is "not always easy".

"They have a lot of gas, and gas is becoming more and more expensive, which is good news for them and bad news for us," said Borrell. He called for the EU to explore a gradual path towards a less conflictual, more predictable relationship with Moscow.

The bloc has no specific policy to reduce imports of Russian hydrocarbons. But Borrell earlier this year outlined new policy towards Russia whereby EU climate targets will require a big drop in petroleum and natural gas consumption that will "obviously affect Russia, our largest supplier".

Additionally today, parliament rejected the "notion of natural gas as an alleged intermediate lower-carbon path towards achieving the EU's climate goals, considering Russia's most recent energy strategy for 2035 envisions an increase in gas export capacity through pipelines in the western direction". And the EU should prepare a new sanctions mechanism whereby continuation of "hostile" acts trigger an "EU-level reduction of energy imports from Russian-based suppliers" while aiding member states to fill gaps through renewables and energy efficiency.

"So far the Kremlin has succeeded all too well in playing us off against each other," said Russian-born German green Sergey Lagodinsky. "My own government in Berlin is the best example of this: the latest agreement with the US on NS2, over the heads of the Ukrainians."

Parliament by a large majority adopted a specific amendment calling for full synchronisation of member states' power grids, notably in the Baltics and preventing sales on EU power markets of electricity produced in the Rosatom-built Astravets nuclear power station in Belarus.

Members also by a large majority adopted the full report, which was drawn up by former Lithuanian prime minister Andrius Kubilius. He said it is "impossible" to have good relations with Russia that is led by an "authoritarian, kleptocratic and aggressive" regime under President Vladimir Putin.

"The Russia of today is the greatest threat to European security," said Kubilius, a member of parliament's largest group, the centre-right EPP.

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