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Energy 7 February, 2018 10:00 am   
Editorial staff

Buzek: Revision of the Gas Directive will protect the EU market, although it may discourage Nord Stream 2 (INTERVIEW)

A review of the Gas Directive is needed to protect the European Union gas market not only because of Nord Stream 2. However, it may discourage the implementation of this project. Jerzy Buzek, former Prime Minister and Chairman of the European Parliament’s Committee on Industry, Research and Energy, speaks of this.

BiznesAlert.pl: The German MEPs from the major political groups believe that it takes more time than you want to be able to work on amending the Gas Directive. Why?

Jerzy Buzek: Works on amending the Gas Directive are progressing as quickly as possible, but with all the procedures specific to the European Parliament. There were reservations about the deadline for submitting amendments to the report that I prepared as a rapporteur. It was due to expire on 16 January, that is two weeks before the end of the consultations announced by the European Commission on the directive. However, I did not agree with the amendment of the deadline for submitting amendments set already in November last year. And I will take the results of the consultations into account when preparing compromise amendments.

Is Lex Nord Stream 2 playing for time or a chance to actually solve the problem?

That is definitely the latter. This is not a new EU law, but the extension of this right to the whole territory of the European Union, in particular to the Third Energy Package (ownership unbundling and third-party access obligations, non-discriminatory tariffs). Some gas pipelines from third countries to the Union have been built so far in a legal vacuum – a revision of the directive eliminates this void. These pipelines crossed the EU – coastal waters in the Mediterranean, North and Baltic Sea and exclusive economic zones – and often had different regulations, even if were routed from the same supplier. This undermined the principles of transparency and fair competition in the common European gas market. We are building such an EU energy market, accessible to all. This is important both for consumers, because it guarantees reliable supplies and a chance to reduce prices, and for energy companies, because it provides predictability and investment stability. The revision of the Gas Directive concerns all gas pipelines from third countries that already exist and are being built now or will be in the future. The name of the directive you have used does not fully reflect the intentions of this legislation.

Will the European Parliament really be able to reject the EC-Russia agreement if it comes to it?

If the legal requirements I have just mentioned are not met, the gas from a third country to the Union cannot be transported via the pipeline. Norwegian Statoil recently informed me that they have no problem with this regulation in the case of numerous gas pipelines to Germany, Belgium, the Netherlands, France, and the United Kingdom. They simply apply the EU law. When they tried to apply the same law a few years ago to the South Stream gas pipeline, which also runs from Russia to Europe, the investors abandoned its construction. They apparently considered it to be unprofitable.

Will the EC be able to reject Nord Stream 2 if Russia does not want a compromise?

Once the amended directive has entered into force, it will not be a matter of compromise or lack of compromise, but of applying the EU law to all gas connections between the Union and third countries. Of course, it is possible to imagine that this project will comply with all the rules of the European law. However, the problem of disastrous political consequences of this investment will remain: Since Nord Stream 2 is to run along the same route and from the same supplier as Nord Stream 1, there is no question of diversification of gas supplies to the EU; a threat to the security of gas supply for the entire Central and Eastern European region as a whole and for Ukraine, with which we are, after all, associated as a Union; a breach of the fundamental principle built by the European Energy Union, which is the principle of solidarity in energy supply; serious political tensions between the Member States, dividing the European Union.

Interview conducted by Wojciech Jakóbik