©Reuters. File image of various European Union flags outside the headquarters of the European Commission in Brussels, Belgium. April 10, 2019. REUTERS/Yves Herman
By Kate Abnett
BRUSSELS, April 22 (Reuters) – European Union companies can get around Russia’s requirement to receive gas payments in rubles without breaking sanctions by paying in euros or dollars that are then converted into Russian currency, the Friday the European Commission.
The firms will also have to look for additional conditions on the transactions, such as a statement that they will consider their contractual obligations in full once they have deposited the non-Russian coins.
Moscow has warned Europe that it risks having its gas supply cut off if it does not pay in rubles. In March, he issued a decree proposing that energy buyers open accounts with Gazprombank to make payments in euros or dollars, which would then be converted into rubles.
The Commission said that companies will have to continue to pay in the currency agreed in their contracts with Gazprom (MCX:), 97% of which are in euros or dollars.
“Companies with contracts stipulating payments in euros or dollars must not agree to Russian demands. This would be contrary to the sanctions in force,” said a spokesman for the Commission.
In a consultative document sent to member states on Thursday, the Commission said Moscow’s proposal risks breaching EU sanctions as it would put the actual completion of the purchase – once the ruble payments have been converted – into hands of the Russian authorities.
However, the Russian decree necessarily prevents a payment process that complies with EU sanctions against Russia over the Ukraine conflict, the Commission said. Brussels said in the document that there are options that could allow companies to continue to legally pay for gas.
“EU companies can ask their Russian counterparts to fulfill their contractual obligations in the same way as before the adoption of the decree, that is, by depositing the amount due in euros or dollars,” the document said.
However, the procedure for obtaining exemptions from the decree’s requirements is still unclear, he said.
Before making payments, EU operators could also make a clear statement that they consider their contractual obligations to be completed when they deposit euros or dollars with Gazprombank, rather than later, after the payment is converted into rubles. , According to the document.
“It would be advisable to seek confirmation from the Russian side that this procedure is possible according to the norms of the decree,” the document said.
The Commission’s advice is not legally binding, but it is an attempt to guide the debate as member states figure out how they can continue to pay for Russian gas.
The EU sanctions regime does not prohibit companies from opening accounts with Gazprombank or engaging with the bank to try to find a solution, according to the document.
(Edited in Spanish by Carlos Serrano)