It’s a balancing act made not to upset anyone, if not to please everyone. The major European companies in the energy sector, such as Engie in France, Uniper in Germany and even ENI in Italy, have found a way to avoid having their Russian gas supplies cut off. While waiting for the European Union to express itself again on the subject, they have adopted a mechanism which makes it possible to meet the demands of Vladimir Putin, without however contravening the sanctions adopted by the European Union against Moscow.
Since April 1, Russia has demanded that payment for its gas purchases be made in rubles, and no longer in euros or dollars as stipulated in the contracts. For Vladimir Poutine, the objective is clear, it is a question of supporting the national currency at the time of the Western sanctions. And by forcing foreign companies to open accounts in Russian banks, it in turn imposes sanctions. Arguing respect for the contracts, the client countries refused to give in to this requirement, thus leaving the threat of a cut in deliveries hovering, while Europe is 40% dependent on Russian gas.
But a compromise was finally found. The new payment procedure now requires that a first payment from the purchasing company be made in euros or dollars to an account of Gazprombank, the private bank controlled by the extraction and delivery company Gazprom. In a second step, this sum is converted into rubles, a process made possible thanks to the opening by the customer of another account within the bank. This mechanism carried out by an operator avoids the passage through the Russian Central Bank, supposed to carry out the conversions, but targeted by European sanctions.
Pressed by the deadline for an upcoming payment and worried about the sudden end of deliveries to Poland and Bulgaria, countries which have not yielded to Russia’s demands, the European Commission gave, this Friday, May 13, “guidelines” to companies, in which they allow the adoption of this principle on the condition of providing “a declaration in which it is certified that they have not paid a single ruble”. The sanctions against Moscow are therefore not violated, but the idea remains that, in this energy war, Russia may have won.