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ROME (Reuters) – Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi said on Monday that Italy wants the European Commission to make it clear how companies can pay for Russian gas without conflicting with sanctions imposed after the invasion of Ukraine.
“It is very important for the commission to give a clear legal opinion on whether or not paying in rubles is a violation of sanctions,” Draghi said after a cabinet meeting. “Because if there is no clarity or course of conduct, it is clear that every company or every country will do as they see fit.”
His comments came on the heels of Roberto Cingolani, the Italian minister in charge of energy security, saying that European energy companies should be temporarily allowed to comply with Russian demands to pay for gas in rubles.
“I think at the moment the understanding is not complete from the point of view of the issues and legal implications. I think it would be good for a few months, at least, to let the companies go ahead and pay in rubles, while we understand the legal framework and the implications,” he told Politico, adding that he wanted “A quick and very clear announcement from the European Commission, ”emphasizing that oil and gas companies can pay in rubles at the moment.
Draghi explained that Italy’s position “is that of Germany, France and everyone else. We will follow the European Commission’s indicators in this regard, there is no difference between Italy and the others.”
Meanwhile, Rome is preparing for a possible cut off of Russian gas with measures to save energy, and even keep coal-fired plants running for longer.
The Kremlin has demanded that energy companies from “enemy countries” – which include all members of the European Union – pay for gas in rubles in a bid to bolster the value of the Russian currency.
It is assumed that companies will open accounts in euros and rubles with the Russian Gazprombank, and the Russians will consider gas payments complete only after the ruble is deposited.
The European Commission has warned Companies should not open accounts denominated in rubles, saying doing so is a violation of sanctions against Russia for invading Ukraine. that it guidance He says that utilities can be paid in euros – and that such a payment would be considered final under existing contracts – after which Russia could later convert it into rubles.
For now, the Kremlin is insisting that companies stick to its scheme. Russia’s state-controlled Gazprom has cut gas supplies to Poland and Bulgaria last week After they refused to comply with Moscow’s demand.
But Cingolani, Italy’s green transition minister, said it could take months to get a full understanding of the legal implications, leaving oil and gas companies in a bind.
“I think oil and gas companies can’t risk paying and then being accused of violating sanctions, but at the same time they can’t risk… not paying in rubles,” he said. “These are long-term contracts, the costs will be very high.”
The solution he proposed is similar to the committee’s solution. The EU energy company will consider the euro payment as the final deal while Russia could instead consider paying the ruble after the transfer. But he acknowledged that such an approach might be “optimistic”.
In this process there are gray areas that could constitute a breach of sanctions. Whatever you do, there’s a problem.”
European Energy Commissioner Kadri Simpson confirmed on Monday that the commission “will issue more detailed guidance on what companies can and cannot do within the framework of our sanctions.”
Meanwhile, Cingolani’s ministry is preparing contingency plans in case Russia cuts gas exports to Italy. The country gets about 29 billion cubic meters of gas annually, or 40 percent of its demand, from Russia.
Cingolani said Italy is in a state of “pre-preparedness”, the lowest of the three crisis levels envisaged in National Gas Emergency Plan, which he said means “continuous observation and observation”. He presented plans for various scenarios to the cabinet on Monday afternoon.
At the moment, he said, there are no plans for a power outage in the industry, but if the situation worsens, there are “contingency plans” to provide power this winter. “At the moment we are considering weaker measures, temperature restrictionsCoal-fired power production, which has been phased out, will continue to operate for a year or two, he said, as well as promoting renewables.
He said the government would issue guidelines asking people to turn off air conditioners in private homes, something he said was happening anyway because of the price hikes. These measures “are not too drastic. If necessary, we can do more with a stronger effect. I hope we do not need to.”
Italia confuse To boost gas supplies, with state-controlled energy giant Eni signing contracts with African countries. With these deals, Italy’s energy diversification is “complete,” Cingolani said, adding that Italy will be independent of Russian supplies by the end of next winter.
Even if the war were to end, he said, Rome had no plans to return to such a massive dependence on Russian supplies.
“We’ve learned that it’s not smart to have a strong dependence on one country,” Singolani said. “I knew about it and said it beforehand, but ironically we are only working on it because there is a war. This is sad and appalling. I wish I could have done such a difficult job in peacetime, rather than being pushed by war.”
This article has been updated with comments from Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi.
Paula Tama contributed to the report.
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