EU Parliament approves legal option to block Russian LNG imports

(Reuters) - The European Parliament voted on Thursday to pass rules allowing European governments to ban Russian LNG imports, by preventing Russian firms from booking gas infrastructure capacity.

The European Union has avoided imposing sanctions on Russian gas, which some members rely heavily on.

As a workaround, the new gas policy aims to establish a legal route for governments to block Russian gas deliveries to their country though so far no major importer has indicated they will use it.

The new EU gas market rules allow governments to temporarily stop Russian and Belarusian gas exporters from bidding for capacity on the infrastructure needed to deliver piped gas and LNG into Europe.

Russia slashed pipeline gas deliveries to Europe following its 2022 invasion of Ukraine - shrinking what had been the main route for Russian supplies to reach Europe. But Russian LNG continues to flow into the continent, mostly through ports in Spain, Belgium and France.

These countries have not confirmed they will use the new legal option.

A spokesperson for Spain's energy ministry said the country supported a common EU position on banning Russian LNG, since if Spain did this alone, Russian firms could simply send their fuel to other EU ports.

Belgium's energy minister has said the government is analyzing the law and its conditions - which include that restricting Russian gas imports cannot disrupt flows of gas between EU countries. Belgium re-exports much of the Russian LNG it receives, to other countries.

France's finance ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Russian LNG deliveries to Europe increased last year to 22 bcm, up from around 16 bcm in 2021, according to EU analysis.

A reinforced majority of EU countries need to approve the policy before it takes effect - a step that is expected to pass the law without changes.

The EU has imposed sanctions on Russian sea-borne oil imports and coal. Sanctions need unanimous approval from EU countries. Hungary has vowed to block a Russian gas import ban.

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