EU, Gazprom buy time to settle gas antitrust case

Gazprom's Alexander Medvedev met with the Commission's Margrethe Vestager. [Gazprom website]

Gazprom and the European Commission need further talks to assess the Russian gas giant’s compliance with EU competition law, they said after a meeting yesterday (29 May) in Brussels.

Gazprom’s deputy chief executive, Alexander Medvedev, met Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager to discuss concessions aimed at ending a six-year-long investigation into Gazprom’s alleged anti-competitive practices in the supply of gas to Eastern and Central Europe (See background).

“We had a very productive discussion today with Commissioner Vestager and her team. We have agreed to hold further talks at technical level in the coming weeks,” Medvedev said in a statement.

To meet EU requests, Gazprom offered to let clients renegotiate decades-long, oil-indexed contracts, with prices linked to benchmarks such as European gas market hubs and border prices, including in Germany.

The concessions made by Gazprom are now being tested to assess their impact in the market. Some rivals, such as state-run Polish oil and gas company PGNiG, are calling for the offer to be turned down and Gazprom to be fined.

Poland's PGNiG urges tough stance in EU antitrust case against Gazprom

State-run Polish oil and gas company PGNiG urged the European Commission today (18 May) to take a tough stance in its antitrust investigation into Gazprom, saying the Russian company should have to pay a fine and sell assets.

“Further contacts with Gazprom are required to address the results of the market test and ensure the Commission’s objectives are met,” a spokesman for Vestager said after the meeting.

Medvedev said he hoped the new talks could conclude “the settlement procedure in the near future”.

Poland to lead battle against Commission-Gazprom entente

Poland is spearheading criticism of the Commission’s proposed “entente” that would end a five-year antitrust case against Gazprom for abusing its dominant position in eight countries in Central and Eastern Europe.

Background

On 13 March, the Commission published Gazprom’s commitments to end a five-year antitrust case and avoid heavy fines.

The case was opened after Lithuania blew the whistle on Gazprom’s anti-competitive practices.

Lithuania steps forward as whistleblower in Gazprom row

Lithuania has stepped forward to denounce pressure from Gazprom after the European Commission yesterday opened a formal antitrust investigation against the Russian gas monopoly for allegedly hindering competition in Central and Eastern European gas markets.

Suspicions about Gazprom’s conduct led the EU executive to launch raids in Central and Eastern European states in September 2011, to investigate firms involved in the supply, transmission and storage of natural gas.

EU raids Gazprom offices in anti-trust probe

Russian gas exporter Gazprom said it would cooperate with an EU competition probe of its units, while sources on both sides said yesterday (28 September) the real source of tension was Europe's fear of its growing reliance on Russian gas.

EU competition regulators said in March that concessions made by Gazprom following charges it has abused its dominant position in central and eastern European gas supplies should ease concerns of market abuse.

That provisional deal moved closer to ending one of Brussels’ longest-running antitrust probes, which could have seen Gazprom fined up to 10% of annual global turnover.

However, the deal is subject to feedback from some EU states and market players, and Poland, which imports most of the gas it consumes from Russia, said in March it would use “all legal means” to block the proposed settlement.

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