Czech industries “cannot do” without supplies from the sanctioned country, Prague’s trade minister says FILE PHOTO: Roman Kokorev, hot metal cleaner at the hot roll mill, one of the facilities at the Novolipetsk Iron and Steel Works (NLMK). © Sputnik / Konstantin Chalabov

The Czech Republic has asked the European Union to exempt Russian steel exports from sanctions as the country cannot find a replacement, Euroactiv reported on Tuesday.

Currently, the EU country is importing discounted thick sheet steel from Russia’s metals giant, Novolipetsk Metallurgical Plant. The existing contract, however, expires at the end of 2024, threatening a crisis for key Czech industries such as construction and car-making. The country’s steel consumption totals around 500,000 tons annually, the outlet said.

“In the current situation in the construction industry, in the construction of bridges, for example, we cannot do without them,” Industry and Trade Minister Jozef Sikela told reporters on Monday.

Sikela confirmed that following consultations with representatives of the steel industry, Prague had requested an exemption on Russian steel supplies at the European Council in Brussels. The official explained that it would apply to imports of heavy steel plates.

“I firmly believe that sanctions should primarily harm the one they are intended against and not the one who applies them,” the official added.

Sikela noted that the Czech Republic has been looking for other solutions but thus far has failed to replace Russian supplies. Currently, only a few producers in the world make heavy steel plates. Some manufacturers are based in China but their products cannot match the quality of Russian steel and supplies are unreliable, according to the minister.

Prague is looking for an exemption on Russian steel imports until 2028, according to the Trade Ministry.

Euroactiv reports that Italy and Belgium are also pushing the EU to lift restrictions on Russian steel supplies.

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