By Kate Abnett
BRUSSELS, March 31 (Reuters) - Germany and Austria's declarations of an "early warning" on gas supply are a precaution that increases the monitoring of supply, but no EU country has yet signalled it is facing a supply emergency, the European Commission said on Thursday.
Germany and Austria both implemented the "early warning phase" of their emergency plans to manage gas supplies on Wednesday, amid concerns of a disruption to Russian supply after Moscow demanded foreign buyers pay for fuel with roubles.
Such measures are "precautionary steps" that European Union countries take when they identify a risk to gas supply, but so far countries have not identified an acute supply emergency, a European Commission spokesperson said on Thursday.
"In all cases, no security of supply issues have been signalled for the present point in time," the spokesperson said, adding the "early warning" alert is the lowest level of crisis notification in the EU rules on gas supply issues.
EU rules require countries to have plans in place for how they would mange the impact of a gas supply disruption at three crisis levels: An early warning, an alert, and an emergency.
The "early warning" alert enhances a country's monitoring of supply, requiring companies involved in the gas market to share information with authorities on a daily basis.
The final "emergency" level would be the point when governments could force industry to curtail activity to ensure households and essential services like hospitals keep receiving gas.
Germany, Europe's biggest economy, said a crisis team from the economy ministry, the regulator and the private sector will monitor imports and storage.
Austria, which gets around 80% of its gas from Russia, said it would tighten its monitoring of the market but was taking no extra measures for now to secure supply.
Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Thursday buyers of Russian gas "must open rouble accounts in Russian banks. It is from these accounts that payments will be made for gas delivered starting from tomorrow," or April 1.
It was not immediately clear whether in practice there might be a way for foreign firms to continue payment without using roubles, which the European Union and G7 group of states have ruled out.
German Finance Minister Christian Lindner said existing gas contracts were based in euros and payments would continue to be made in that currency. (Reporting by Kate Abnett Editing by Chris ReeseAnd Sandra Maler)