Poland confronts Gazprom

EPA/MIROSLAW TREMBECKI/FILE PICTURE

A worker checks a valve at the natural gas and crude oil mine facility, part of PGNiG SA Sanok's Branch, in Swidnik Duzy, Poland.

PGNiG urges EU to fine Russian gas giant


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Polish Oil and Gas Company PGNiG submitted to European Commission on May 19 its position on the commitments proposed by Russian gas monopoly Gazprom in antitrust proceedings conducted by the European Commission.

A day earlier, PGNiG said that the Commission should fine Gazprom and create competitive conditions on the gas market.

PGNiG presented its position on commitments submitted by Gazprom within the Commission’s antitrust proceedings. The Polish company has indicated a long-standing violation of antitrust law by the Russian corporation and has proposed imposing a number of obligations on Gazprom, PGNiG said in a statement posted on its website.

Asked about the Polish request for the EC to fine Gazprom and create competitive conditions on the gas market, a European Commission spokesman told New Europe on the record on May 19, “The Commission assesses all complaints it receives in line with its standard rules and procedures”.

Asked about the antitrust case against Gazprom, the Commission spokesman told New Europe “the Commission will now carefully assess all comments received from interested parties before deciding on whether or not to accept the commitments proposed by Gazprom. We cannot prejudge the outcome or the timing of this assessment”.

On May 18, PGNiG CEO Piotr Wozniak presented at a televised press conference his company’s position on the commitments proposed by Gazprom in antitrust proceedings conducted by the Commission.

PGNiG is an active participant of the market tests under the European Commission’s anti-trust proceedings against Gazprom.

He reminded that a formal investigation has been going on since 2012. An informal investigation started back in 2009. “In 2011, the European Commission inspected Gazprom’s partners in Europe, including us, and this means we had to give access to all our hard drives and all the documents concerning our business dealings with Gazprom,” Wozniak said.

“Formal proceedings started in 2012 but only in May 2015 – so it has been two years now – the European Commission published its statements of objections against Gazprom namely a formal document with accusations, objections against monopoly-related actions by Gazprom. As a result of this nearly four-year-long test, the result of this is a market test, an inquiry about commitments that Gazprom proposed in order to break away from their practices,” Wozniak said, arguing that Gazprom’s proposals mean “that they are admitting that they were involved in such practices”.

“We don’t know when this process may end but it’s important because after Gazprom obviously admitted that they were involved in trust practices up until the moment the investigation is over, they are still not blocked from being involved in such practices until the formal end of proceedings,” the PGNiG asserted.

He summarized the statement of objections put forward by the European Commission, noting that the most important objection is the partition of the internal market. “So companies from one country are treated differently than companies from a group of other,” Wozniak said.

A second objection against Gazprom put forward by the Commission is unfair gas pricing for Central and Eastern European countries. “Do you remember the period when PGNiG paid nearly twice for the Gazprom than German recepients or other Western European companies,” he said.

Thirdly, another point is gas supplies being conditional upon control of infrastructure by Gazprom, namely transport infrastructure for natural gas.

The PGNiG said its response to the European Commission is “transparent and “there is no hidden agenda”.

Meanwhile, Gazprom is also facing problems in non-EU member Ukraine. The former Soviet republic is an important transit country for Russian gas supplies to the European Union. On May 16, Ukraine’s supreme economic court dismissed the appeal of Gazprom, which demanded a reversal of the decision of lower courts on enforced recovery of around $6.4 billion in fines in favor of Ukraine, Sputnik reported. Gazprom launched the appeal in March. The decision now can be challenged in the Supreme Court of Ukraine.

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