Sunday

22nd Jul 2018

Gazprom threats are aimed at EU anti-trust case, diplomats say

  • 'When you are a monopolist ... you can always find illegal ways to harass dependent countries' (Photo: gazprom.com)

EU diplomats say Gazprom’s recent threats on security of supply to Europe are an attempt to put pressure on the European Commission over anti-trust proceedings.

The commission will, on Wednesday (22 April), send a statement of objections to the Russian gas firm, according to EU sources familiar with the matter.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... our join as a group

The indictment stems from a Lithuanian complaint in 2011 that the gas monopoly is abusing its dominant market position in eastern Europe.

It prompted raids by EU officials of Gazprom offices around the EU, who seized bushels of internal documents.

It also prompted Russia’s Vladimir Putin at the time to say he “will follow what is going on around Gazprom in the most attentive way”.

The case went quiet under the previous EU anti-trust commissioner, Spain’s Joaquin Almunia, prompting speculation the EU had frozen proceedings in order not to complicate EU-Russia relations in the context of the Ukraine crisis.

But Almunia’s successor, Denmark’s Margrethe Vestager, earlier this month signaled she is not afraid to challenge corporate giants by unveiling a similar indictment against US Internet company Google.

For his part, one senior EU diplomat told EUobserver on Tuesday: “Russia has been pondering this issue [the EU competition case] for some time and I think, to an extent, all these threats to cut supplies via Ukraine from 2019 and to build Turkish Stream instead are an allergic reaction linked to the case”.

A second EU source said there is a risk Gazprom could also cut supplies to vulnerable member states, such as the Baltic countries, in order to increase leverage against Brussels.

“It’s always an option: When you are a monopolist and when you are abusing the rules, you can always find illegal ways to harass dependent countries”.

“I understand the peculiarity of the situation [on Ukraine] - but there’s never a ‘good moment’ for this kind of action”, the source noted.

The source added the Google precedent can be used by EU officials to show that EU law is being applied in a non-political way, however.

“The complaints against Gazprom came more than a year before the Ukraine crisis. If we can proceed against Google, then we can also say that the Gazprom case is purely about energy and competition laws, not about Ukraine”.

Threats

Russia said last December it will no longer build "South Stream", a pipeline via Bulgaria which had to comply with EU anti-monopoly laws.

It said it will instead build a pipeline to Turkey and stop supplies to the EU via Ukraine in 2019 when the Turkish project is operational.

"Turkish Stream" is to terminate on the Greek-Russian border, meaning it doesn’t have to follow EU energy legislation, which isn't enforced in Turkey despite its EU accession talks.

The Gazprom CEO, Alexei Miller, repeated the threats in Berlin last week, adding that Russia plans to sell more gas to the Far East in future.

He is due in Greece on Tuesday to discuss Athens’ potential participation in the Turkish project.

Vestager

But Vestager, in a speech in Washington last week, noted that she will act “decisively against energy companies that harm rivals, block energy flows from one EU country to another, or threaten to close the tap”.

She added in a speech in New York on Monday: “We all apply the same rules of the EU treaty. These rules have become the law of the land throughout the EU”.

“Up until the end of 2013, the commission investigated 122 cases and the national authorities 665. So, we can now talk of a genuine European system of competition control. The companies that are considering breaking the law should look at these figures and reconsider”.

Gazprom chief warns EU on higher gas prices

Gazprom chief Alexei Miller has said the EU's planned energy union will raise the cost of Russian gas and warned that his company will stop supplying gas through Ukraine in 2019.

Opinion

EU must create safe, legal pathways to Europe

As the rapporteur for the European Parliament on an EU regulation on resettlement, my colleagues and I have outlined an effective plan based on solidarity and humanitarian principles.

News in Brief

  1. Libyan PM rejects EU migrant camps idea
  2. Italy's Salvini to sue critical anti-mafia writer
  3. EU countries send aircraft to Sweden to help with wildfires
  4. British ex-commissioner's jobs called into question
  5. May to tell EU to drop Irish border 'backstop' idea
  6. Trump threatens EU over Google fine
  7. Spain withdraws arrest warrant for Catalan separatists
  8. EU readies counter-measures on possible US car tariffs

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. IPHRCivil society asks PACE to appoint Rapporteur to probe issue of political prisoners in Azerbaijan
  2. ACCASocial Mobility – How Can We Increase Opportunities Through Training and Education?
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersEnergy Solutions for a Greener Tomorrow
  4. UNICEFWhat Kind of Europe Do Children Want? Unicef & Eurochild Launch Survey on the Europe Kids Want
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Countries Take a Stand for Climate-Smart Energy Solutions
  6. Mission of China to the EUChina: Work Together for a Better Globalisation
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersNordics Could Be First Carbon-Negative Region in World
  8. European Federation of Allergy and AirwaysLife Is Possible for Patients with Severe Asthma
  9. PKEE - Polish Energy AssociationCommon-Sense Approach Needed for EU Energy Reform
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region to Lead in Developing and Rolling Out 5G Network
  11. Mission of China to the EUChina-EU Economic and Trade Relations Enjoy a Bright Future
  12. ACCAEmpowering Businesses to Engage with Sustainable Finance and the SDGs

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersCooperation in Nordic Electricity Market Considered World Class Model
  2. FIFAGreen Stadiums at the 2018 Fifa World Cup
  3. Mission of China to the EUChina and EU Work Together to Promote Sustainable Development
  4. Counter BalanceEuropean Ombudsman Requests More Lending Transparency from European Investment Bank
  5. FIFARecycling at the FIFA World Cup in Russia
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersOECD Report: Gender Equality Boosts GDP Growth in Nordic Region
  7. Centre Maurits Coppieters“Peace and Reconciliation Is a Process That Takes Decades” Dr. Anthony Soares on #Brexit and Northern Ireland
  8. Mission of China to the EUMEPs Positive on China’s New Measures of Opening Up
  9. Macedonian Human Rights MovementOld White Men are Destroying Macedonia by Romanticizing Greece
  10. Counter BalanceControversial EIB-Backed Project Under Fire at European Parliament
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersIncome Inequality Increasing in Nordic Countries
  12. European Jewish CongressEU Leaders to Cease Contact with Mahmoud Abbas Until He Apologizes for Antisemitic Comments

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us