BAKU – Russia may face tough energy negotiations when Lithuania assumes the rotating EU Presidency in July. Vilnius is already planning to lessen its dependence on Russian gas monopoly Gazprom by finding alternative gas suppliers and will try to boost European energy security.
On 8 April, Lithuanian Prime Minister Algirdas Butkevicius told New Europe in Baku that he had “a good meeting” with Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev in St Petersburg on 5 April where he told the Russian premier that the EU will not change the Third Energy Package, despite Russia’s objections.
Moscow argues that the EU rules for energy liberalisation discourage Gazprom from investing in pipelines and gas storage facilities as they would grant third-party access to its infrastructure. He also says that it discriminates against Gazprom.
“I explained to him [Medvedev] that we will not change Third Energy Package in Europe because I presented this plan in Brussels when I met with (Commission President Jose Manuel) Barroso, (EU President Herman) Van Rompuy, and (Parliament President Martin) Schulz and then I met with (Energy Commissioner Günther) Oettinger and our position is very strong — to strengthen energy security in Lithuania and in all the European Union,” Butkevicius said on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum in Baku.
In 2012, the European Commission launched a monopoly probe into Gazprom’s operations in the region, alleging that the Russian gas giant is using its dominant position in central and Eastern Europe to restrict competition and hike prices. Moreover, Gazprom and gas monopolist Lietuvos Dujos, which current operates Lithuania’s pipelines, were involved in a long and bitter fight in which Vilnius used the EU’s Third Energy package to force a decision to unbundle the company past major shareholders Gazprom and Germany’s E.ON last year. Gazprom says it was coerced into the decision by threats from the Lithuanian government, and has not ruled out international arbitration.
The Lithuanian premier told New Europe that he and Medvedev decided that experts from Russia, especially from Gazprom, would come to Lithuania this week. “The will discuss many issues about a new maybe contract buying gas from Gazprom. But we don’t want to sign this agreement for a long time because we know that we will have new suppliers at the end of 2014,” Butkevicius said.
He explained that Lithuania will present its new independent national energy strategy in the parliament by May and it is going to diversify gas its market by December 2014. He said his country plan to construct a big liquefied natural gas (LNG) platform by December 2014. “Next our aims are to complete interconnections of electricity with Poland and with Sweden and these projects will be completed by 2015 and then at the same time we will go to European Union energy market,” Butkevicius said.
But for now, Russia is Lithuania’s only source of natural gas and Gazprom last year supplied more than 3.4 billion cubic metres of natural gas to the Baltic state. The Lithuanian premier said Lithuania pays the highest price for gas in all of Europe. “But I think we will have new suppliers at the end of 2014 and then I think discussions with Russia will be easier,” he said.
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