EU seeks legal means to halt Russian LNG imports

European Union (EU) countries have agreed to pursue a legal option to halt Russian liquefied natural gas (LNG) exports to EU nations by preventing Russian firms from booking infrastructure capacity. The proposal is part of the countries’ negotiating position on new EU gas market rules.

The EU’s 27 member countries have pledged to end their reliance on Russian gas following Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine. Europe’s pipeline imports of gas from Russia have decreased since the invasion, but LNG imports have risen, reaching 22 billion cubic meters (bcm) last year from around 16 bcm in 2021, according to EU analysis.

The new EU gas market rules would allow governments to temporarily prevent Russian and Belarusian gas exporters from bidding up-front for capacity on the infrastructure required to deliver LNG into Europe.

Lithuanian Vice Minister for Energy Albinas Zananavicius believes that this proposal would prevent a situation where LNG infrastructure intended to help countries switch from Russian gas to alternatives was instead being used to import more from Moscow. The proposal would provide member states with a means of halting Russian LNG imports without resorting to sanctions, which require unanimous approval from all 27 EU member states.

However, Hungary has indicated that it cannot support the negotiating position on the new EU gas market law, which includes a series of new rules to integrate more low-carbon gases. EU Energy Commissioner Kadri Simson has urged European companies not to sign new Russian LNG agreements, as has Spanish Energy Minister Teresa Ribera to companies in Spain. Nevertheless, since Russian gas and LNG are not subject to EU sanctions, these requests are not legally binding.

The EU currently prohibits seaborne crude oil and oil product imports from Russia. The proposal must now be negotiated with the European Parliament, a process that can take several months.

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