Netherlands postpones deadline for municipalities to cancel Russian gas contracts

On September 6, 2022,  Dutch Minister for Economic Affairs and Climate Policy Rob Jetten announced that Dutch municipalities, schools, and drinking water companies will not be required to end their gas contracts with SEFE, a Dutch subsidiary of the Russian state company Gazprom, by October 1, 2022. Those entities which have not succeeded in finding another energy supplier will be granted a three-month extension until January 1, 2023.

In April 2022, Minister Jetten required 120 municipalities, educational institutions, and water authorities to cancel their gas contracts with SEFE following EU sanctions on Russia. The decision was met with concern from a majority of Dutch parliament members regarding the negative financial implications of the decision, culminating in requests for its reversal. At the time, Jetten was not receptive to these appeals.

Parliament members have argued that due to German control of Gazprom's European headquarters, and thus SEFE, since April 2022, gas contract profits no longer go to Russia. However, Minister Jetten maintained that SEFE’s shares still benefit Russian shareholders. Parliament members have questioned the Minister’s decision to interpret the EU sanctions this way, when France, Italy, Switzerland, and the United States will continue to do business with SEFE.

Minister Jetten noted in a letter to the House of Representatives that many municipalities and water authorities had successfully switched gas providers, and that the ministry received fifteen applications for provisional exemption. While not reversing the decision, Minister Jetten indicated he will ask the European Commission for clarification on the sanctions against SEFE as well as differing interpretations by EU member states.

Some members of parliament expressed their hope that the postponement would result in cancelation, and that the ministry will consider the financial disadvantage for the municipalities that have switched providers.

News article – NOS (in Dutch)