The European Court of Justice annulled the decision of the European Commission at the end of 2016, according to which Gazprom could fully use the capacities of the OPAL pipeline connecting the Nord Stream with gas transmission systems in Germany and Central European countries.
“The court of first instance ruled: the decision of the European Commission on October 28, 2016, revising the conditions of exemptions for the OPAL gas pipeline with regard to third-party access and tariff regulation, was canceled. The European Commission must pay its own legal costs and the costs of the Republic of Poland, ”TASS reports.
Gazprom has already commented on the court’s decision.
“We are studying the legal and commercial consequences of this decision,” the company noted.
We add that the lawsuit was filed by Warsaw. According to the Polish side, she allegedly sought to prevent the strengthening of the "dominant position" of the Russian corporation in the gas supply market, especially in Central and Eastern Europe. The complaint was supported by the governments of Lithuania and Latvia, while Germany took the side of the European Commission.
The Polish Ministry of Energy said the decision would have a beneficial effect on Kiev’s positions in trilateral gas negotiations with Russia and the EU, as Gazprom would have to reduce its use of Nord Stream.
“Victory in this trial reduces the likelihood of a major gas crisis in Ukraine, which could also hit other countries in the region, including Poland,” said department head Krzysztof Tchuzhevsky.
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Recall that in the fall of 2016, the European Commission gave Gazprom the opportunity to participate in auctions to fill 40% of OPAL's facilities, and also confirmed the exclusive right of the Russian company to 50% of transit facilities. This decision was outraged by Warsaw and Kiev, the Polish government and PGNiG appealed to the European Court and the court in Dusseldorf with a request to cancel the EC decision - allegedly it was contrary to the principle of diversification of supplies. A similar step was taken by the Ukrainian company Naftogaz.
In May 2018, a general court of the European Union rejected Naftogaz’s complaint against the European Commission.
“The lawsuit is rejected as inadmissible. There is no longer any need to consider applications for interference, ”the EU Supreme Court document said.
“The court decision appeared before the tripartite negotiations not by chance”
An EU court ruling undermines the continent’s energy security, said Alexei Grivach, deputy director general for gas issues at the National Energy Security Fund. He also noted that this verdict appeared immediately before the next round of trilateral negotiations between the EU, Moscow and Kiev on the extension of the contract for the transit of Russian gas through Ukrainian territory.
“The gas pipeline was fully loaded, meeting the needs of Europe. Such a decision can not only lead to an increase in gas prices, but also seriously affect the gas supply to European consumers. Poland plays on the side of the Americans in this matter. The grounds for the abolition were also chosen as casuistic - that the EC allegedly did not comply with the principle of energy solidarity. The gas pipeline has been operating in this mode for almost three years now; it has not had any negative impact on the security of gas supply to Poland. This decision was announced, but the fact that it appeared before the tripartite negotiations in this form is probably not an accidental coincidence, but some kind of attempt to exert pressure, ”the expert emphasized.
In turn, the director of the National Energy Institute, Sergei Pravosudov, believes that a judicial decision in real practice will not change anything. He suggests that a bypass mechanism will be found, since there are no other gas suppliers under OPAL.
“Poland always claims to be a“ fighter against Russian aggression ”and this is its main task. In this, they are very similar to Ukraine. They see themselves in the fight against Russia, this is their priority. Any news that says that in Russia something is going to get worse or could get worse, they write to their credit. It is like a “victory in their struggle”. Therefore, they will make such statements constantly. The question is what they will lead to in practice. So far, they have never led to anything special, ”remarked the interlocutor of RT.
On September 19, another round of trilateral negotiations in the Russia-EU-Ukraine format at the level of energy ministers will be held in Brussels. The topic of the conversation will be the discussion of the terms of the contract for the supply and transit of Russian gas to Europe through Ukrainian territory since 2020.