This is what the solution to the ruble dispute might look like

DrThe struggle between Hungary and the European Union over the oil embargo against Russia continues. Diplomats hope the blockade will be resolved through a special summit at the end of May. By that time, the question of how energy companies will pay for Russian gas without violating EU sanctions must also be resolved. Many companies have to pay the next premium by then. It is said that around May 20 it will be the turn of the main German importer Uniper. Federal Economy Minister Robert Habeck (Greenz), head of the Network Agency Klaus Muller and corporate heads are confident. However, it is still not clear how the funds can be paid according to the penalties. Does this mean that Germany threatens the fate of Poland and Bulgaria, because of which Russia cut off gas in April?

According to EU diplomats, the European Commission is not innocent of the difficult situation because its initial “instructions” on the payment were not clear. However, the situation is also difficult: on the one hand, EU sanctions prevent companies from paying bills in rubles. On the other hand, a decree of Russian President Vladimir Putin states exactly this. “Unfriendly countries” can pay for gas in dollars or euros for the so-called K-account in Gazprom Bank. However, the payment is not considered complete until the foreign currency is transferred to the company’s ruble account at the bank on the company’s instructions.

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The hope is now based on some kind of compromise. The Commission improved its instructions once again and made it clear that opening a K-account in Gazprom Bank, which was rejected by Poland and Bulgaria, does not violate the sanctions. However, she emphasized at the same time that companies should clearly state, from their point of view, that the payment is made by transferring foreign currency to the account.

Confident energy companies

However, it is still not clear whether opening an account in rubles will also violate the penalties. The head of the Federal Network Agency, Klaus Muller, emphasized in an interview with FAZ: “Germany agrees with the K-calculation model,” which makes it possible to meet the Russian conditions and sanctions on an equal footing. The big question is whether Russia sees it the same way. But diplomats say this was not a technical decision, but a political one by Putin. A decision that can be different every day.

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The energy companies seem to be assuming a solution. Upon request, RWE said: “We are ready to pay in Euros and we have also opened a corresponding account.” RWE has not commented on details. Uniper recently talked about complying with sanctions and paying in euros. The exact procedure is unknown. Three weeks ago, CEO Klaus-Dieter Möbach told FAZ: “But we are basically preparing to pay using the two-account solution. This means that we continue to pay in euros and the instant conversion is done in rubles, coordinated by Gazprom Bank. “

France’s Engie says it has already reached an agreement with Gazprom. An acceptable agreement has been reached, Catherine McGregor, president of Engie, said. The Italian concern Eni also began to open two accounts on K in Gazprom Bank. The company will continue to pay in euros, but “the clearing house operating on the Moscow Stock Exchange will convert to rubles within 48 hours without the intervention of the Central Bank of Russia.” The Russian authorities confirmed this. It added that any risks or costs of the new payment method would be borne by Gazprom Export. Eni believes that this action does not violate EU sanctions because “Eni’s payment obligations will be deemed fulfilled once the euro has been converted in accordance with the contract”.

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