The Czech Republic will ask Russian steel company Novolipetsk Steel (NLMK) for longer-term exemptions for imports next Friday when ambassadors meet to discuss sanctions against Moscow, according to three EU diplomats.
Steel, which makes up the bulk of an automobile body and its components, is in high demand by manufacturers, and NLMK is an important participant in this. It produces most of its flat and long steel products in Russia, while a quarter of its rolling operations are located in Europe, closer to industry buyers.
Since the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Brussels has imposed a wide-ranging package of 11 sanctions on Moscow in a bid to politicize Putin. Throughout the sanctions debate, many EU countries have demanded a transition period to find alternatives to Russian imports.
While the Czech Republic has asked for an extension to continue using steel from NLMK, one of Russia's major steel companies, one of the sensitive issues is the targeting of semi-finished steel imports and the possible loss of thousands of jobs as it continues to operate in Europe with companies in Belgium, Italy and France.
The Czechs were granted a transitional period until the end of 2024 from which they are exempt, making it difficult for European companies to find alternatives to cheap Russian semi-finished steel products. According to the source, one of the diplomats said they wanted to extend their exemption period until 2028, claiming that there were difficulties in obtaining alternative sources.