EU countries near compromise on countering Russian gas supply risks

Slovak Economy Minister Peter Žiga chaired the meeting. [Council]

EU nations are edging toward a compromise on a proposal to guard against gas supply disruptions, agreeing to share details on contracts and cooperate across borders, the Slovak presidency said yesterday (5 December).

Cuts in gas supplies from Russia in 2006 and 2009 exposed the bloc’s vulnerability – particularly in eastern Europe – in relying on Russian gas export monopoly Gazprom for around one third of its needs.

But the European Commission’s bid for greater oversight and to mandate more regional cooperation has raised the hackles of big EU states, wary of it overreaching.

EU unveils plans to vet energy contracts outside bloc

The EU unveiled plans on Tuesday (16 February) to vet energy contracts that member states sign with countries outside the bloc as it seeks to cut dependence on Russian gas.

“We were clear today that such a situation (disrupted gas supplies) should not be repeated again,” Slovak Economy Minister Peter Žiga, whose country is hosting the EU presidency, told journalists after the meeting of representatives from member states on energy issues.

Despite objections from France and Germany about opening up commercially sensitive information, Monday’s political accord paves the way for talks with the European Parliament early next year – the final step in the EU’s lengthy lawmaking.

Member states challenge regional gas ‘solidarity’ plan

A European Commission proposal obliging EU countries to re-route gas supplies to neighbouring member states in case of severe shortages is being challenged for its excessive “rigidity” ahead of ministerial talks Monday (6 June).

Ministers agreed to the EU executive’s proposal for access to details – except on pricing – on long-term gas contracts that account for at least 40% of annual gas consumption or are “key to security of supply” in member states.

Sidestepping objections by many member states to the EU executive’s plan to oblige regional cooperation to safeguard security of supply, member states agree to cooperate instead based on risk assessments.

EU countries must power neighbours during shortages, under new rules

European Union countries will be obliged to help power households and social services such as healthcare in neighbouring member states in case of severe shortages, under legislation to be put forward by the European Commission next week.

“It’s not exactly what we proposed … but I’m pretty happy with it,” Climate and Energy Commissioner Miguel Arias Cañete said, referring to the draft law which had sliced the bloc into nine separate regions to pool resources.

The assessment to be carried out by Europe’s transmission system operators association ENTSOG would set the basis for cross-border measures, including emergency supply corridors along the lines of existing infrastructure.

As a last resort, member states also agreed in principle to reroute gas supplies to neighbouring states in case of cuts once rules are worked out to compensate private suppliers.

European Union sources said member states were also nearing an accord, potentially this week, with parliament over Brussels’ request to vet bilateral energy deals between EU nations and countries such as Russia.

EU to vet member states’ gas deals with Russia

The European Council decided on Monday (6 June) that gas-related intergovernmental agreements (IGAs) between member states and third countries would be vetted by the Commission before they are signed. For non-gas related IGAs, a lighter procedure will apply.

The EU executive wants to avoid a repeat of the legal headaches it faced when it ruled that Gazprom’s planned South Stream pipeline under the Black Sea ran counter to EU competition law.

South Stream bilateral deals breach EU law, Commission says

EXCLUSIVE / The bilateral agreements for the construction of the Gazprom-favoured South Stream gas pipeline – concluded between Russia, Bulgaria, Serbia, Hungary, Greece, Slovenia, Croatia and Austria – are all in breach of EU law and need to be renegotiated from scratch, the European Commission said today (4 December).

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