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Parliamentary questions
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30 November 2021
Answer given by Ms Simson
on behalf of the European Commission
Question reference: E-004295/2021

The Commission understands the question to refer to the idea of prohibiting both the importation of gas produced through fracking and the sale of domestically produced fracked gas.

Natural gas production by hydraulic fracturing has potential risks that need to be mitigated by best available techniques and risk management approaches.

In 2019, the Commission published a Best Available Techniques Guidance Document on upstream hydrocarbon exploration and production.(1) In 2014, the Commission had adopted a recommendation(2) and a communication(3) on projects involving high-volume hydraulic fracturing.

Article 194 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the EU (TFEU) allows Member States to decide whether and under which conditions energy resources can be produced or consumed on their territory, but it does not allow to restrict imports of natural gas in a way that would be incompatible with EU internal market rules or the EU’s obligations under international trade agreements.

Exceptions to the free movement of goods are subject to a proportionality test as per the case-law of the Court of Justice.(4)

Directive 2009/73/EC(5) and the internal market rules in the TFEU in principle prohibit restrictions to trade of natural gas within the EU.

With regard to imports from third countries, the GATT(6) permits the regulation of imports if this does not treat imports less favourably than domestic or imported like products from other countries. A breach of these rules may under certain conditions be justified under GATT Article XX.(7)

(2)Commission Recommendation of 22 January 2014 on minimum principles for the exploration and production of hydrocarbons (such as shale gas) using high-volume fracturing. OJ L 39, 8.2.2014, p. 72).
(3)Communication from the Commission to the European Parliament, the Council, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions on the exploration and production of hydrocarbons, such as shale gas) using high volume hydraulic fracturing in the EU. Brussels, 22.1.2014, COM(2014) 23 final/2.
(4)Commission Notice (2021/C 100/03) ‘Guide on Articles 34-36 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU)’. OJ L 100, 23.3.2021.
(5)EUR-Lex — 32009L0073 — EN — EUR-Lex (europa.eu)
(6)General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade 1994.
(7)Article on General Exceptions. The relevant justifications in cases of environmental risks are those covering measures necessary to protect human, animal or plant life or health (paragraph (b)), relating to the conservation of exhaustible natural resources (paragraph (g)) and necessary for the protection of public morals (paragraph (a)). Such a measure must also not be applied in a manner which would constitute ‘a means of arbitrary or unjustifiable discrimination between countries where the same conditions prevail’, and not be ‘a disguised restriction on international trade’.
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