Information that the European Commission intends to look at Gazprom’s actions in Germany has passed almost without a trace. Meanwhile, this is a good news for Poland – writes Wojciech Jakóbik, editor-in-chief of BiznesAlert.pl.
Complaint of the EC to Germany in favor for the Poles
The European Commission has brought a complaint against Germany to the Court of Justice of the European Union, including on the improper implementation of the gas directive included in the third energy package.
The explanatory proceedings have been going on since 2015. The Commission accused the lack of independence of the German regulator Bundesnetzagentur (BnetzA), which is the equivalent of Polish Energy Regulatory Office. This is an important institution for Poland, because PGNiG is arguing with it. Disputes concern decisions that give special treatment to this company and the possibility of using German infrastructure to distribute Russian gas in Central and Eastern Europe with the use of exemptions from antitrust law, which the European Commission has now warned of.
Illegal economic symbiosis?
According to the Commission, the German regulator does not have full freedom in setting transmission tariffs and access to transmission infrastructure. It can therefore be suspected that Gazprom is allowed to enter German gas pipelines through exemptions from the third package. In addition, it was improperly implementing the ownership separation provisions. This applies, inter alia, to the independence of managing and supervising bodies in companies with regard to employees from third countries. Is it about the Russians in the management boards of German companies? The lawyers will have to decide whether the Germans had the right to allow Gazprom subsidiaries to manage a part of the infrastructure in Germany.
In the past, the Polish government and PGNiG appealed to the same tribunal for the decision of the European Commission to make the entire flow capacity of Nord Stream 1 in Germany available, ie the OPAL gas pipeline, to Gazprom, and the BnetzA decision in the same case. It turns out that the Commission can at least partially agree with the Poles, since they are looking at the same problems that they pointed out in their lawsuits. A year after the decision allowing Gazprom to OPAL’s higher capacity, the Commission admits that BnetzA did not fulfill its obligations by not investigating the dependence of the operator Opal Gastransport GmbH on Gazprom and BASF, that is Russian and German companies that decided to exchange assets.
In BiznesAlert.pl, in this context, I wrote about the strengthening of Russia-Germany economic symbiosis, which threatens the European Union. The Commission acknowledges that Gazprom has an influence on infrastructure in Germany indirectly through subsidiaries. This can be, inter alia, WINGAS taken over from BASF.
Problem for Nord Stream 2
The commencement of the proceedings may strike Nord Stream 2-EUGAL. BiznesAlert.pl has already informed that the subsequent completion of the branch of the new gas pipeline from Russia to Germany may delay the entire project, or at least force the Russians to deliver less gas in the first phase of Nord Stream 2. The dispute over how Germany can make EUGAL available it could potentially additionally prolong the process. In the March 2017 auction, the Russians have reserved EUGAL in 80-90 per cent for 20 years. Now the Commission can question such a significant impact on transmission infrastructure in Germany and undermine the result of the auction allocating capacity to individual entities. It will also be able to challenge the tariffs set by the Bundesnetzagentur.