21st Oct 2016

Putin says 'Niet' to EU anti-trust lawyers

  • Putin (r) at a meeting in Brussels last year (Photo:

Russian President Vladimir Putin has passed a law blocking Gazprom from normal co-operation with EU anti-trust officials.

Referring to potential EU-Gazprom exchange of information on alleged price-fixing, his new decree on Tuesday (11 September) "establishe[d] the obligation of a federal executive body to refuse permission to conduct the aforementioned activities if they are capable of damaging the economic interests of the Russian Federation."

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.

Gazprom spokesman Sergei Kupriyanov in Moscow the same day told press the EU is trying to extort gas discounts.

"Right now a series of relatively weak EU economies are continuing to demand from Gazprom unilateral concessions on gas prices. You can't view this [the EU probe] as anything other than EC [European Community] support for Gazprom subsidies to eastern Europe. This is an attempt to solve the economic problems of the EC at Russia's cost," he said.

Gazprom CEO Alexei Miller also told Russian newswire Interfax the decree means EU energy firms will have to call the Kremlin instead of his office if they want price cuts.

"There is no need for them to turn to us anymore," he noted.

The European Commission announced its investigation last week, prompting a stream of abuse from the Russian side.

Russia's EU ambassador Vladimir Chizhov said EU lawyers can investigate "life on Mars" for all he cares. Gazprom deputy chief Alexander Medvedev called the EU a "thief."

Putin himself said the move is a shake-down: "Someone in the European Commission decided that we must assume part of the burden of this subsidising [of EU countries]. United Europe wants to retain some political influence and wants us to pay for it."

For his part, EU competition chief Joaquin Almunia told press in Strasbourg on Tuesday the investigation will go ahead on technical grounds.

"We don't look at the nationality [of a suspect firm], or who the shareholders are, or whether it's a public or private company. What we are concerned with is the impact that business activities will have on our market," he noted.

Whether or not Gazprom co-operates with Almunia, commission staff last year snatched evidence in raids on Gazprom-linked offices in 10 EU countries.

They have also sent questionnaires to other energy firms in a procedure which could see price-fixing allegations multiply and increase a potential fine.

EU officials have not lost an abuse-of-dominance case in the Union's court in Luxembourg since 1958.

To add insult to injury, foreign affairs chief Catherine Ashton on Tuesday lectured Russia in remarks to MEPs.

She said that "under Russian law" the three women in the Pussy Riot punk group who made fun of Putin should have been "sanctioned [for] a minor offence" instead of being jailed.

She also criticised new Russian legislation designed to make life harder for NGOs.

"The recent set of steps taken by the government sets the country on the wrong path and wastes the opportunity for effective modernisation and democratic development provided by the political awakening of Russia's new middle classes," Ashton said.

News in Brief

  1. Brexit could lead to 'some civil unrest' in Northern Ireland
  2. ECB holds rates and continues quantitive easing programme
  3. Support for Danish People's Party drops, poll
  4. Spain's highest court overturns Catalan ban on bullfighting
  5. Tusk: 'Concrete' migration proposals in December summit
  6. Commuters seek compensation for Swedish ID checks
  7. EU needs 'firmness and dialogue' with Russia
  8. Moment of truth is coming on Ceta, says Belgian PM

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNICEFCalls on European Council to Address Plight of Refugee and Migrant Children
  2. ECTAJoin us on 9-10 November in Brussels and Discover the new EU Digital Landscape
  3. Access NowCan you Hear me now? Verizon’s Opportunity to Stand for Global Users
  4. Belgrade Security ForumMeaningful Dialogue Missing Not Only in the Balkans, but Throughout Europe
  5. EASPDJoin the Trip! 20 Years on the Road. Conference & Photo Exhibition on 19-21 October
  6. EuropecheEU Fishing Sector Celebrates Sustainably Sourced Seafood in EU Parliament
  7. World VisionWomen and Girls Urge EU Leadership to Help end Gender-based Violence
  8. Dialogue PlatformIs Jihadism Blind Spot of Western Intellectuals ? Wednesday 26 October
  9. Belgrade Security ForumGet the Latest News and Updates on the Belgrade Security Forum @BelSecForum
  10. Crowdsourcing Week EuropeMaster Crowdsourcing, Crowdfunding and Innovation! Conference 21 November - 10% Discount Code CSWEU16
  11. EJCEU Parliament's Roadmap for Relations with Iran a Massive Missed Opportunity
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersFish Skin on Bare Skin: Turning Fish Waste into Sustainable Fashion

Latest News

  1. Malta, Latvia, and Hungary top EU obesity charts
  2. British PM asserts her role in EU 'nest of doves'
  3. Italy shields Russia from EU sanctions threat
  4. EU and Wallonia still stuck on Canada accord
  5. Dieselgate isn't my fault, says German transport minister
  6. Scotland plans independence vote before Brexit
  7. EU threatens Russia over Syria 'atrocities'
  8. EU buries migration dispute for now