Thursday

19th Apr 2018

Gazprom lobbyists get to work in EU capital

  • The last meeting on Ukraine gas failed to secure terms beyond June (Photo: ec.europa.eu)

Gazprom lobbyists are saying that if EU anti-trust regulators crack down too hard, then Russia might retaliate on Ukraine.

Neither the Russian company nor its lobby firm in Brussels, G-Plus, have officially commented on news that the European Commission will, on Wednesday (22 April), file charges against the gas supplier.

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But G-Plus, on Tuesday, began to informally brief journalists in the EU capital.

Its line is that Gazprom is suprised because it had indicated, last week, that it wants to settle the case amicably.

It's also surprised because Gazprom recently extended its price discount for Ukraine until the end of June and because Russia, G-Plus claims, is complying with the “Minsk 2” peace accord on Ukraine.

The lobby firm says this amounts to a rapprochement.

It also says that if the EU files a wide-ranging indictment, then Russia is likely to take a tougher line in the Ukraine gas talks.

But if the EU takes a minimalist approach, as it recently did on Google, then it won’t have too much impact.

The Gazprom case stems from Lithuania's complaint, in 2011, that the Russian firm hinders free flow of gas between EU countries, prevents diversification of supply, and imposes unfair prices.

The EU commission, in parallel to the anti-trust proceedings, is in talks with Moscow and Kiev to make sure gas keeps flowing via Ukraine to EU customers.

The last meeting, in Brussels on 16 April, failed to secure terms beyond June.

But there is little sense of urgency, with the winter still a long way off.

Meanwhile, Gazprom is angling for member states' support for Turkish Stream - a pipeline designed to bypass Ukraine from 2019 and to avoid EU legislation by terminating at the Greek-Turkish border.

Its CEO, Alexei Miller, in Athens on Tuesday met PM Alexis Tsipras and energy minister Panagiotis Lafazanis.

Lafazanis later told media, Reuters reports, that “the pipeline is of big interest to our country and is among our priorities …we hope to reach an agreement very soon”.

He earlier said that Russia might pay Greece €3.5 billion in advance transit fees if it goes ahead.

G-Plus

G-Plus says, in the EU commission's transparency register, that its Gazprom contract is worth between €300,000 and €350,000 a year.

But the full extent of its work on behalf of the Russian firm is likely to be worth more.

The London-based company also has offices in Berlin and Paris and, in 2013, posted a turnover of £13.7 million (€19mn).

The commission register notes that its Gazprom work is invoiced by Diversified Energy Communications (DEC), another London-based firm owned by the same people who own G-Plus.

British records show the value of G-Plus’ transactions with DEC in 2013 was £6.6mn, indicating the Gazprom contract is worth millions.

G-Plus could not be contacted on Tuesday for a comment on its financial arrangements.

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.

Analysis

Is Germany more hawkish on Russia?

Germany's socialist foreign minister just said the EU should "step up pressure" on Russia. Merkel aired "political" doubts on a Russian pipeline.

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