Russian Gas Undermines European Unity

The demand of the Russian authorities to "unfriendly countries" to pay for gas in rubles, as well as the demonstration of readiness to stop gas supplies to countries that refused to comply with these requirements, put the European Union in a difficult position.

 

According to Presidential Decree No. 172, "unfriendly" buyers must purchase gas in accordance with the new payment system, which requires the opening of two accounts in Gazprombank. The money will be credited to one account in euros and dollars, and then converted by the bank into rubles and paid to Gazprom from the second account.

At the EU level, the proposed payment scheme for gas was rejected and perceived as blackmail. The head of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, issued a statement in which she warned European companies about the risks of violating EU sanctions in the event of an agreement with new Russian requirements. She also pointed out that about 97% of European contracts provide for payments in euros or dollars.

At the same time, there is a contradiction in European countries regarding the payment of Russian gas in rubles. Some countries, for example, Hungary agreed with the Russian scheme. As Bloomberg points out, citing a source, ten European companies have already opened accounts with Gazprombank to convert currency into rubles, and four have already made payments.

Some European companies are still considering the possibility of purchasing Russian gas in rubles, among the companies are German Uniper, Italian Eni and Austrian OMV. As the Guardian points out, there may be loopholes in European legislation that will allow European companies to formally comply with European sanctions and at the same time comply with Russian requirements. For example, one of these options may be a public statement by the buyer that the purchase is completed at the time of transfer of dollars or euros to the Gazprombank account before they are converted into rubles. This scheme, however, requires the consent of the Russian side.

Other countries categorically refused to comply with Russian requirements. These include, for example, Bulgarian Bulgargaz and Polish PGNiG. As a result, Gazprom has suspended gas supplies to these countries since April 27.

As Maria Belova, Research director at VYGON Consulting, comments for Kommersant, there is a split in the European Union into the countries of "old Europe", which are guided by more pragmatic considerations in relations with Russia regarding the purchase of energy resources, and the countries of "new Europe", which are more categorical in putting pressure on Russia. However, countries like Hungary demonstrate the conditionality of such a division.

According to Belova, the deepening of the split in the purchase of Russian energy resources may lead to the supranationalization of this issue - the transition to the collective purchase of gas at the level of the European Union. However, the transfer of powers from the state to the supranational level in the EU is traditionally a difficult issue and most often faces obstacles from more Eurosceptic countries. The resolution of this issue largely depends on the further dynamics of the conflict and the ability of European political elites to consolidate the European Union.

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