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25th May 2019

Polish firm sues EU Commission over Gazprom privileges

  • A Nord Stream worker. (Photo: Nord Stream AG)

Poland's state-owned gas consortium PGNiG filed a complaint to the European Court of Justice on Sunday (4 December), asking it to cancel a European Commission decision that would give Russian gas supplier Gazprom unique rights to the so-called Opal pipeline in Germany.

The Polish firm said the decision, which was taken on 28 October, went against EU antitrust rules on sharing of infrastructure. The extra Opal capacity will help Russia to expand the Nord Stream pipeline to Germany and strengthen relations between the two countries, which Warsaw considers a strategic threat.

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"This is the first of a range of legal measures PGNiG intends to take in this matter against the European Commission and the Bundesnetzagentur, the German energy market regulator," the gas company said in a statement.

EU rules say that gas-trading companies cannot have exclusive use of the pipeline. However, in 2009, the commission agreed that Gazprom would have half of the capacity of the Opal pipeline reserved for its exclusive use.

In October the commission lifted the 50 percent cap, allowing Gazprom to expand Nord Stream's capacity and bypass both Ukraine and Poland as a gas transit route.

The EU executive hasn't yet published its decision, and PGNiG said the German regulator also had not responded to requests to hand over the decision.

Nonetheless, the German regulator has already started to implement the decree. On 28 November, it signed a contract with Gazprom and Opal owners exempting them from the obligation to apply EU regulations on third-party access to the pipeline.

PGNiG managing director Piotr Wozniak said the commission and the German regulator were acting in a way that threatened the security of gas deliveries to Poland and its neighbours.

"They are destroying the development of the competitive gas market and expanding the privileges enjoyed by Gazprom, which can in turn lead to the Russian company acquiring a monopoly in the supply of gas to Central and Eastern Europe," he said.

If the court decides not to annul the commission's decision, PGNiG would appeal, Wozniak said, which could result in a lengthy court battle.

EU energy policy explicitly aims to diminish dependency on Russia, but Gazprom said earlier this year that its exports to the EU had reached a record high.

Poland also wants the commission to stop Gazprom's plan from building a second gas pipeline, Nord Stream 2, which would ship huge volumes of gas to Germany while bypassing Poland and Ukraine.

Polish authorities say the pipeline breaks EU law and undermines the bloc's policy on Ukraine.

The EU executive, however, has said it's too difficult to pin down the project in legal terms, because its plans kept changing.

Analysis

Good day for Russia in Europe

Russian firm Gazprom is a reformed character, the EU commission has said, improving the climate for new pipelines to Europe.

Column / Crude World

Nord Stream 2: The elephant in the room

The European Commission should provide a thorough impact assessment of Nord Stream 2, a project that appears to go against all of its Energy Union objectives.

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