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European Commission attacks Gazprom

On September 27, representatives of the European Commission and national anti-monopoly bodies of some EU member states checked 20 European gas companies Gazprom cooperates with or have a stake in. Gazprom’s major subsidiary in Europe, Gazprom Germania, was also audited; the latter operates substantial part of Gazprom assets in the EU.

The European Commission officially claims that the European companies are suspected of violating the anti-monopoly rules being producing suppliers that combine both kinds of activities. However, there is no doubt that the European Commission actually tries to show Gazprom that it is serious about its intentions to counter expansion of the Russian gas giant. Not long ago European energy commissioner Gunther Oettinger spoke against the South Stream project. His latest public statements were unusually hard, compared to a rather neural line of behavior he had pursued before. Gazprom perceived Gunther Oettinger as a more comfortable partner than his predecessor in the EC, Andris Piebalgs.

Yet, the European Commission is unlikely to risk imposing large fines on Gazprom partners in the EU. Brussels is still unable to quickly find a replacement for Gazprom gas, which will make the EU leadership act more cautiously. It should be also noted that all previous attempts of the European Commission to become a third party in the process of making commercial contracts between energy companies (e.g. between Gazprom and its European counteragents) led to no result. Firms are not hurrying to invite EU commissioners to negotiations, while national governments are not rushing to transfer key rights of state energy regulators to Brussels. So far, the most significant achievement of the EC is the beginning of introduction of the Third Energy Package rules; yet, it is still the government of a certain country that defines a concrete way and comprehensiveness of implementation of anti-monopoly principles in national legislation. Many governments are rather inclined to continue or even broaden partnership with the Russian gas concern.

By Stanislav Mitrakhovich, NESF leading expert

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