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Lithuania attacks Gazprom

The Lithuanian energy ministry the other day sent a complaint against Gazprom to the European Commission. The Baltic state requested investigation into alleged abuse of the dominating position on the Lithuanian market by the Russian gas giant. According to Lithuanian energy minister Arvydas Sekmokas, the Russian firm tries to prevent the emergence of competition between natural gas suppliers. It is indicative that accusations have a political than rather legal character. The Lithuanian side focuses on its thesis that Gazprom pressurizes Lithuania as an independent state and an EU member whose supranational authorities should stand up for the Baltic state. Theoretically, according to the EU antimonopoly legislation, Gazprom may face the fine equal to 10% of its total annual sales. But this is very unlikely - Gazprom may be made to act in compliance with the tough version of interpretation of the Third Energy Package.

Meanwhile, Russia will keep insisting on its position - Lithuania should resort to implementing a soft variant of the Third Energy Package. This will provide opportunities for keeping gas pipelines in the hands of their current owners when an independent operator is established. Russia's strong argument is the increase in prices for the most obstinate state on the gas market. Except theses about "soon construction of a large LNG receiving facility" Vilnius' arguments (that may soon be shared by Tallinn and Riga) will be mainly of a political character in the form of appeals to the Western public opinion, which in fact we are already observing. This method may yield some success to Lithuania especially on the background of large-scale memorial events devoted to the 20th anniversary of independence of the Baltic States from the USSR gained in 1991. They will definitely attract attention of many Western politicians and mass media sources.

By Stanislav Mitrakhovich, NESF leading expert

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