Monday

30th Jan 2023

Putin says 'Niet' to EU anti-trust lawyers

  • Putin (r) at a meeting in Brussels last year (Photo: ec.europa.eu)

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."

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

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.

Signs of tension after EU move on Gazprom

The European Commission says its probe into suspected price-fixing by Gazprom has nothing to do with EU-Russia relations. But Gazprom says it does.

Podcast

Mars, god of war, returns to Europe

Political scientist David Rowe has been looking into why so much of Europe wasn't ready for Putin — and the consequences for the Western allies of not spilling their own blood in Ukraine.

Latest News

  1. No internet, light, heat: how war-hit Ukrainians remote-work
  2. Mars, god of war, returns to Europe
  3. Fears on migration plus Ukraine summit this WEEK
  4. Pressure mounts on EU to coordinate visas for Russian rights-defenders
  5. Dutch set to agree to US-led chip controls to China
  6. No record of Latvian MEP's 'official' Azerbaijan trip
  7. Why the new ECHR Ukraine-Russia ruling matters
  8. Europe continues to finance Russia's war in Ukraine with lucrative fossil fuel trades

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Party of the European LeftJOB ALERT - Seeking a Communications Manager (FT) for our Brussels office!
  2. European Parliamentary Forum for Sexual & Reproductive Rights (EPF)Launch of the EPF Contraception Policy Atlas Europe 2023. 8th February. Register now.
  3. Europan Patent OfficeHydrogen patents for a clean energy future: A global trend analysis of innovation along hydrogen value chains
  4. Forum EuropeConnecting the World from the Skies calls for global cooperation in NTN rollout
  5. EFBWWCouncil issues disappointing position ignoring the threats posed by asbestos
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersLarge Nordic youth delegation at COP15 biodiversity summit in Montreal

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersCOP27: Food systems transformation for climate action
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersThe Nordic Region and the African Union urge the COP27 to talk about gender equality
  3. Friedrich Naumann Foundation European DialogueGender x Geopolitics: Shaping an Inclusive Foreign Security Policy for Europe
  4. Obama FoundationThe Obama Foundation Opens Applications for its Leaders Program in Europe
  5. EFBWW – EFBH – FETBBA lot more needs to be done to better protect construction workers from asbestos
  6. European Committee of the RegionsRe-Watch EURegions Week 2022

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us