Tuesday

21st Feb 2017

EU officials take on Gazprom, Putin in price-gouge probe

  • Gazprom logo in Moscow (Photo: qwertyuiop)

The EU has said Russia's Gazprom might be guilty of price-fixing in Europe in a move set to test political relations.

The Europan Commission on Tuesday (4 September) said it has launched a probe into three "suspected" activities: hindering free flow of gas between EU countries; preventing diversification of gas supply; and imposing "unfair prices" on customers.

Dear EUobserver reader

Subscribe now for unrestricted access to EUobserver.

Sign up for 30 days' free trial, no obligation. Full subscription only 15 € / month or 150 € / year.

  1. Unlimited access on desktop and mobile
  2. All premium articles, analysis, commentary and investigations
  3. EUobserver archives

EUobserver is the only independent news media covering EU affairs in Brussels and all 28 member states.

♡ We value your support.

If you already have an account click here to login.

Its case is based on documents snatched in dawn raids last September from 20 Gazprom and Gazprom subsidiary offices in 10 EU countries, including Austria, the Czech Republic, Germany and Poland.

Lithuania, which gets 100 percent of its gas from Russia, originally prompted the raids by a complaint to Brussels.

"I can confirm that we have asked the European Commission to look into possible abuse of the European competition rules over unfair pricing and I believe the probe is justified," its energy minister, Arvydas Sekmokas, told Lithuania's Baltic News Service on Tuesday.

A lawyer involved in two existing disputes on price-fixing between Gazprom and Lithuania and Gazprom and Poland at an international arbitration court in Stockholm told EUobserver: "They [the EU] might have a case ... Gazprom's [dominant] market position has been an issue for many years."

Gazprom has so far not reacted officially.

But its spokesman, Sergei Kupriyanov, told Reuters by phone: "Let them investigate."

The commission probe could take years to resolve. In theory, it could end with a 10 percent fine of the company's income in the markets where it is found guilty of wrongdoing - a figure in the billions of euros.

The commission's anti-trust department operates independently of its political masters in President Jose Manuel's Barroso's team, with Tuesday's statement underlining the technical nature of the case by citing chapter and verse of EU competition law.

A contact close to Gazprom told this website the matter "should not be politicised" and that "it wouldn't help at all" to try to influence the EU executive's decision.

But Gazprom has an arsenal of friends in high places to take its side.

Russian President Vladimir Putin himself warned Barroso at two recent summits not to use EU law to try to weaken the Russian state-owned firm's position in Europe.

Former German chancellor Gerhard Schroeder is on Gazprom's payroll.

It pays lobbying firm GPlus, run by former EU anti-trust official Peter Guilford, an estimated €2 million a year to plead its views in Brussels.

It also has purported links to Russian intelligence services.

A senior source in Belgium's intelligence service, the VSSE, which is responsible for protecting the EU institutions from foreign spies, told EUobserver that Russian espionage activity in the EU capital is at the same level as the Cold War, with a special focus on EU energy policy.

Another contact, a senior EU official, told this website in a separate interview: "It [Gazprom] is not a normal company in the European sense of the word."

Correction: The original story said a fine could be 10 percent of Gazprom's total turnover. In fact, it could be 10 percent of its income in the markets where it is judged to have misbehaved

EU officials distance themselves from Gazprom stunt

Current and former top EU officials on Monday denied that they have any connection with Gazprom in a yachting project which has been flying the EU flag for the past six years but which is now sponsored by the Russian firm.

Opinion

Gazprom: A wolf in green clothing

People like me love conspiracy theories, especially on Russia. Now it seems that one of them has come true.

MEPs approve Canada trade deal amid protest

Amid protests in front of the European Parliament's Strasbourg building and after heated debate among MEPs, the landmark trade deal with Canada was approved with a comfortable majority.

News in Brief

  1. Romanian parliament buries controversial corruption decree
  2. Dozens drown off Libyan coast
  3. EU ministers approve anti-tax avoidance directive
  4. Poland rejects EU criticism of court changes
  5. German nationalist leader met with Putin allies in Moscow
  6. German housing market overheated, says Bundesbank
  7. France invites three EU leaders for Versailles summit in March
  8. Greece agrees on new bailout reforms

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Martens CentreEU and US Migration Policies Compared: Join the Debate on February 28th
  2. Swedish EnterprisesTechnology and Data Flows - Shaping the Society of Tomorrow
  3. UNICEFNearly 1.4 Million Children at Risk of Death as Famine Looms Across Africa and Yemen
  4. Malta EU 2017End of Roaming Fees: Council Reaches Agreement on Wholesale Caps
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Innovation House Opens in New York to Help Startups Access US Market
  6. Centre Maurits CoppietersMinorities and Migrations
  7. Salzburg Global SeminarThe Child in the City: Health, Parks and Play
  8. UNICEFNumber of Ukrainian Children Needing Aid Nearly Doubles to 1 Million Over the Past Year
  9. Centre Maurits CoppietersThe Situation of Refugee Women in Europe
  10. Salzburg Global SeminarToward a Shared Culture of Health: Charting the Patient-Clinician Relationship
  11. European Free AllianceAustria Should Preserve & Promote Bilingual and Multinational Carinthia
  12. Martens CentreShow Your Love for Democracy! Take Part in Our Contest: "If It's Broken, Let's Fix It"

Latest News

  1. Should Europeans spend more on defence?
  2. Dieselgate: EU disappointed with VW's treatment of customers
  3. French police raid Le Pen's party office
  4. The Armenia-Azerbaijan war: A refugee's story
  5. Greece and creditors break bailout deadlock
  6. Internal EU report exposes Libya turmoil
  7. EU commissioner condemns 'delay' in post-Dieselgate reform
  8. Sweden fights back as foreign leaders make up bad news