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Complaint to the European Ombudsman on oil and gas imports from Russia

Jurisdiction: European Ombudsman


Side A: Deutsche Umwelthilfe (Ngo)


Side A: Notre Affaire A Tous (Ngo)


Side A: Avaaz (Ngo)


Side A: Global Legal Action Network (Ngo)


Core objectives: Whether the European Union has not adequately assessed the human rights and greenhouse emissions implications of its continued Russian oil and gas imports after the Russian invasion of Ukraine and of its current and planned measures to reduce the EU’s energy dependence on Russia.


Summary
Since the Russian Federation invaded Ukraine, the European Union has continued to import Russian oil and gas. EU imports constituted 61 percent of Russia’s fossil fuel exports (besides oil and gas also coal) in the first one hundred days of the war. Oil and gas exports are an important part of the Russian economy, the revenues of which make up 45% of Russia’s 2021 budget, according to the International Energy Agency. The imports of Russian oil and gas are governed by Regulation 2015/478 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 11 March 2015 on common rules for imports. Article 1 of that Regulation states that such oil and gas shall be freely imported into the Union and shall not be subject to any quantitative restrictions. To decrease dependence on Russian oil and gas, the European Union has adopted REPowerEU, a plan to rapidly reduce dependence on Russian fossil fuels and fast forward the green transition. The plan focuses on saving energy, diversifying energy supplies, accelerating the rollout of renewables, and smart investments. The plan has no specific timeframe to achieve its goals but aims to achieve the reduction "as soon as possible" and "well before 2030," 2030 being the target set before the adoption of the plan. 

On May 25, 2022, Global Legal Action Network (GLAN), Avaaz, Notre Affairs à Tous, Deutsche Umwelthilfe, and Svitlana Romanko, co-founder of the Stand With Ukraine campaign, filed a complaint with the European Ombudsman, Emily O’Reilly, alleging that the EU failed to conduct an impact assessment before continuing its imports from Russia after the Russian invasion of Ukraine. The complainants contend that the EU is obliged to assess the impact of its oil and gas imports on both human rights and GHG emissions. The complaint states that the EU oil and gas imports are a critical source for Russia to finance its war efforts, thus contributing to the human rights violations it says are happening in Ukraine. At the same time, the complaint states that the Commission has not adequately assessed the implications for climate change of its current and planned measures to reduce Russian oil and gas imports. The complaint mentions that the Commission’s plan to find alternatives for Russian fossil fuels risks locking in fossil fuel use.

The content of the assessments is described in detail in a letter sent on April 26, 2022, and attached to the complaint. In that letter, the complaining parties ask the Commission to:
- assess the full range of measures that are both available to the EU – including a full cessation of imports of Russian oil and gas – appropriate to ensure that the EU does not contribute to the ability of Russia to prosecute its war of aggression in Ukraine;
- examine – and consider other authoritative studies which examine – all available means of rapidly reducing reliance on Russian oil and gas within the EU;
- assess the implications for the EU’s greenhouse gas emissions of any measures it considers to reduce reliance on Russian oil and gas;
- assess how a rapid reduction in the EU’s reliance on Russian oil and gas can be achieved in a manner that is most consistent with the imperative of reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

The complaint states that the EU is obliged to respect international law in the exercise of its powers and that conducting an impact assessment is part of that obligation. In not conducting such an assessment, the EU has not acted in accordance with the principles of good administrative behavior. The complaint specifically mentions that the EU has violated art. 6 (proportionality) and 9 (objectivity) of the European Code of Good Administrative Behavior. 

After receiving the complaint, it is up to the Ombudsman’s office to determine whether the complaint warrants an inquiry. If the Ombudsman opens an inquiry, she can find that (1) there is no maladministration, (2) make a proposal to the institution to resolve the matter, or (3) find that there is maladministration and make recommendations to address the maladministration. The Commission then has three months to respond.

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from the Grantham Research Institute
from the Grantham Research Institute
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