EU Competition Commissioner, Margrethe Vestager, hinted on Thursday (16 April) that Gazprom might be among the companies that will be treated strictly if found breaching the block’s competition law. The EU Commission has been investigating the Russian oil and gas giant for more than two years for the allegations that Gazprom sells overpriced gas to Eastern European customers and blocks both competitors and the free flow of gas. Ms Vestager’s warning came from the United States where she is making her first official trip since she took office in November last year. Ms Vestager also pledged that she would be tough with energy firms that “harm rivals, block energy flows from on EU country to another, or threaten to close the tap”.
Ms Vestager did not specifically name Gazprom but her speech came just before the Commission’s presentation of the investigation results, which are due to be released shortly. The process was interrupted last year due to the conflict in Ukraine but Ms Vestager says that the Commission now feels ready to resume the case. In the meantime, Russia is pushing ahead with its plans to bypass Ukraine as a transit country for its gas by constructing a pipeline to Turkey and further to Greece via the Black Sea.
Moscow plans to stop exporting gas via Ukraine by 2019. Gazprom’s CEO, Alexei Miller, said during a conference in Berlin that “if someone thinks about blocking Turkish Stream … it is a very serious mistake,” thus warning the EU against moves that could stop Russian plans to bypass Ukraine. Russia dropped its $40 billion South Stream pipeline through Bulgaria to Europe in 2014 citing problems with EU regulations, which were, according to the Kremlin, blocking the entire project. Instead, the country chose the Turkish Stream although Brussels said that the project was not viable.