Gazprom offers talks to settle EU antitrust case

21st September 2015, Comments 0 comments

Gazprom on Monday submitted a proposal to answer accusations by EU antitrust regulators that the Russian energy giant imposed unfair prices on customers in eastern Europe.

The European Commission in April accused state-owned Gazprom with infringing the bloc's single market rules, which has threatened to aggravate tensions between Europe and President Vladimir Putin's Russia when their ties are already strained over the crisis in Ukraine.

"The Commission can confirm it has received a set of commitment proposals from Gazprom, which it will assess carefully," EU spokesman Ricardo Cardoso said in an emailed statement.

A settlement would end the European Union's proceedings against Gazprom, but still force the company into accepting constraining measures that answer the accusations.

Attempts to reach a settlement last year before formal accusations were made were frozen after Russia's annexation of Crimea and its support of an insurgency in eastern Ukraine.

If the EU's claims are substantiated, Gazprom risks fines of up to 10 percent of total sales, about 9.7 billion euros in 2014.

Gazprom in April firmly rejected the accusations brought forward by Margrethe Vestager, the EU's Competition Commissioner who is also leading a similar high profile case against Google.

Gazprom in a statement confirmed its proposal, adding: "We hope to discuss this proposal with the representatives of the Commission in the near future in order to come to a settlement agreement."

"In parallel, we will continue to work towards submitting a written response to the European Commission's Statement of Objections by the 28th of September deadline," the company added.

The Commission, the EU's powerful executive arm, accuses Gazprom of significantly hindering competition in Central and Eastern European gas markets, where the company is by far the dominant supplier.

Specifically, the EU accused Gazprom of breaching single market rules by forbidding the resale of its gas between EU countries, allowing the Russian giant to charge unfair prices.

The countries involved in the EU probe are Lithuania, Estonia, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Hungary, Latvia, Slovakia and Poland -- all former Soviet-era satellites that have cast their future with the European Union, not Moscow.

These member states are keeping a close eye on how Brussels handles the case, wary of the EU losing its resolve to fight Gazprom given the company's close ties to the Russian government.


© 2015 AFP

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