The European Commission’s reply: Romania and the EU agreement with Gazprom
- Written by Lavinia Iancu
Amid concerns that Gazprom has abused its dominant position, by fragmenting and isolating the Central and Eastern European gas markets, the European Union (EU) and Gazprom have reached an agreement to renegotiate the gas prices for the Central and Eastern European states, an agreement which does not include Romania. According to the agreement, the prices of natural gas supplied by Gazprom will no longer be linked to the international oil prices, but will be related to the natural gas reference prices on the main European markets.
European Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager noted that the Gazprom officials have also agreed to amend the contracts, in order to remove the export restrictions imposed so far by the Russian company to the importing countries in terms of the volume of gas supplied. The energy giant has also promised to supply these countries with gas at low, flat and transparent prices. In addition, Gazprom has committed not to charge any commission if the gas is exported to an EU Member State.
“We believe that Gazprom’s commitments will enable the free flow of gas in Central and Eastern Europe at competitive prices. They address our competition concerns and provide a forward-looking solution in line with EU rules. In fact, they help to better integrate gas markets in the region,” the European Commission (EC) press release reads. The text of appendix A – “Proposals for Commitments COMP / 39/816 - Gazprom; Commitments under Article 9 of Council Regulation No 1/2003” reads that the countries to which reference is made are: Estonia, Lithuania, Latvia, Poland, Slovakia, the Czech Republic, Hungary and Bulgaria. Romania, however, is not among them, reason for which we have called for the European Union’s response to this issue.
Following our request, the Directorate General for Competition with the European Commission states that: “The Gazprom antitrust investigation covers eight Central and Eastern European Member States, namely Estonia, Lithuania, Latvia, Slovakia, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Bulgaria. The Commission is concerned that Gazprom has abused its dominant position by isolating and fragmenting the gas markets in those Member States and, in relation to some of them, has charged excessively high prices in breach of Article 102 TFEU. Given the relatively small volumes of gas supplied by Gazprom to Romania, Romania is not covered by the Gazprom antitrust investigation. On that basis, the commitments offered by Gazprom which are now subject to a market test would not cover Romania if the Commission were to accept them. Nevertheless, a contract that imposes on the purchaser a territorial restriction in the form of an export restriction or a restriction regarding the territory into which goods can be resold may be regarded as a restriction of competition and may contravene EU competition rules. If you have evidence that Gazprom’s customers in Romania are subject to such clauses, you may want to bring it to the attention of the National Competition Authority or the European Commission.”
In conclusion, Romania is not subject of the Gazprom commitments and cannot benefit from the clauses included in the agreement, such as:
- restrictions to re-sell gas cross-border are removed once and for all and facilitating such cross-border flow of gas in Central and Eastern European gas markets;
- gas prices in Central and Eastern Europe reflect competitive price benchmarks; and
- Gazprom cannot act on any advantages concerning gas infrastructure, which it obtained from customers by having leveraged its market position in gas supply.
The European Commission answer is very clear. But what do the competent authorities in Bucharest have to say about this topic?