EU warns of gas shortage in Poland

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Poland may face natural gas shortages later this year as a result of delays in signing a long-term gas supply deal with Russia, the European Commission said on 17 September. Brussels says Poland is preventing EU companies from buying its surplus Russian gas, infringing EU internal market rules.

The agreement on increasing Russian gas delivery to Poland and its transit to Germany through the Yamal pipeline was negotiated last year but has not been signed due to worries that it is incompatible with European Union laws.

"It might be that from mid-October there is a gas shortage in Poland, but as you know we have tried to improve our legislation on that," Marlene Holzner, the Commission spokeswoman on energy issues, told reporters.

"We're not talking about the whole winter. As far as we know we're talking about mid-October until December. We're only talking about some hours where there might be a peak in demand, and we're working of course with the Polish government on scenarios and also on solutions," she said.

Warsaw and Moscow will have more talks over the weekend and next week to try to tweak the contract so it conforms to EU rules. EU experts will also be present as advisers, the first such involvement of the bloc in Polish-Russian energy talks. The Commission expects other EU countries to help Poland for some time should it not receive enough Russian gas.

"We have asked member states who have gas storage, it might be possible for member states to help out for a couple of months," said Holzner.

The deal covers 10 billion cubic metres of Russian gas a year for Poland until 2037, as well as gas flowing onwards to the rest of Europe through the Yamal pipeline.

The Commission has said the deal must respect EU rules which say that the pipeline must not be monoplised by Poland and Russian gas companies PGNiG and Gazprom. Poland imports about 65-70% of the 14 billion cubic metres of its annual gas consumption from Russia, a dependence that worries many in the EU's biggest ex-communist state.

(EURACTIV with Reuters.)

A clause of an agreement between Warsaw and Gazprom prevents Poland from reselling surplus gas to its neighbours when the country receives more than it needs.

According to the European Commission, Poland is violating its obligation to store gas on its territory, discriminating against EU companies that export gas to Poland and forcing them to seek ways to transport gas to storage facilities.

The Commission also points to foreign companies' lack of access to the Yamal pipeline, which brings Russian gas to Germany from Poland's border with Belarus. The Commission statement cites a so-called "territoriality clause," which forecloses the market for EU gas suppliers, in turn endangering Poland's security of supply.

Analysts have repeatedly warned that Russia is supplying its EU customers under long-term supply contracts, many of which contain a so-called "territorial clause". This 'Gazprom clause' breaches EU single market rules and allows the Russian monopolist to sell gas to different EU countries at different prices, in a divide-and-rule strategy.

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