Members of the European Parliament’s Energy Committee agreed on March 21 that EU gas market rules must apply to all pipelines entering or leaving the bloc, with only occasional strictly limited exceptions.

According to the European Parliament, amendments to the EU gas market Directive say all gas pipelines from third countries must fully comply fully with European gas market rules while operating within the EU.

The Industry and Energy Committee (ITRE) approved the amendments on March 21, by 41 votes to 13 with 9 abstentions. Any exceptions must be strictly time-limited, and the EU Commission and the Member States affected must be involved in deciding the individual cases where the limitations do not apply, MEPs said.

These EU “Third Energy Package” rules govern, inter alia, third-party access, transparency requirements, fair tariffs, and proper separation of producers from distributors in the gas supply chain, the EP said.

More specifically, gas pipelines from Russia, including Nord Stream 2, Norway, Algeria, Libya, Tunisia and Morocco must comply with key provisions for the creation of an internal gas market, such as the unbundling of transmission system operators (TSOs), supervision by independent regulatory authorities, and third party access to infrastructure, MEPs said.

The MEPs also tightened the conditions that must be met before exceptions can be made to gas market rules, such as derogations for existing pipelines or exemptions for yet to be built ones, the EP said. These impose a 5-year maximum fixed time limit for exemptions; increase EU Commission involvement in deciding derogations; involve the Member States whose markets could be affected by pipeline infrastructure, as well as the authorities of the relevant third country, in deciding derogations and exemptions.

The committee also amended the proposal to say that, when deciding upon exemptions for new pipelines entering the EU, the Commission should consider any EU restrictive measures, such as economic sanctions, imposed on a third country.

“Today we have ensured that our gas market will be based on a full legal clarity and consistency of existing legislation, an important step towards completion of our Energy Union,” said rapporteur, Polish MEP Jerzy Buzek. “This compliance is a precondition for our energy security and independence – all the more important that EU’s dependence on gas imports is constantly growing. I am looking forward to commencing and hopefully concluding inter-institutional negotiations under the Bulgarian Presidency – who stands a chance to leave a legacy in the energy field,” Buzek added.

MEPs can start negotiations with EU ministers once the Parliament has approved a mandate at its April 16-19 plenary session in Strasbourg, and the Council has agreed its own approach on the file.