Concern as EU reaches agreement with Gazprom in antitrust probe

Sergiei ChirIkkov

Poland and other European countries have expressed their concern after Russian gas giant Gazprom reached a deal with the EU to finish a seven-year-old antitrust case.

Talks between the European Commission and Gazprom began after several European countries, including Poland and Ukraine, accused the Russian gas giant of raising prices and exploiting its status as a monopoly in the European market in order to exact an excessive price from some countries. After years of negotiations, the European Commission reached an agreement with Gazprom, which is controlled by Alexei Miller, a close ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Under the agreement, Gazprom will adjust its gas prices to open market prices in Western Europe, reduce restrictions on the resale of gas and allow countries to request a reduction in gas prices.

EU’s Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager said that the agreement is good for both the EU and Russia and rejected the criticism from Poland and other countries.

“This case is not about the flag of the company, it is about achieving the outcome that best serves European consumers and businesses,” she said.

She added: “I know that some would like to see us fine Gazprom instead, but these obligations will significantly change the way Gazprom operates in Central and Eastern Europe to the benefits of millions of European consumers when they heat their homes, when they cook their food, and also to the benefit, of course, of European businesses which rely on gas for their productions.”

The agreement will allow Gazprom to avoid a multi-billion-euro fine for abusing its status as a monopoly in the European gas market and for violation of EU antitrust laws. Gazprom supplies about a third of the gas to Europe and the new agreement will ensure the continued control of the Russian company in the European gas market and make it difficult for the United States to become a significant gas exporter to the continent.

 Poland and some of the Baltic states hit out at the agreement with Poland's deputy foreign Minister Konrad Szymanski saying: "We are disappointed that the long-term antitrust proceedings against Gazprom ended without imposing fines, lack of compensation for aggrieved companies and only marginal concessions from the Russian monopolist."