EU confident of solution on Russia-Poland gas transit deal

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The European Commission on Tuesday said it was confident a solution would be reached on terms for access to a gas pipeline under a deal between Russian and Polish gas giants.

The commission last month had warned the deal between Russia's Gazprom and Poland's PGNiG might breach European competition law.

The Russian and Polish firms agreed in January on transit volumes and rates for gas crossing Poland en route to Europe through the Yamal-Europe pipeline.

After talks with a Polish official, the Commisioner for Energy Gunther Oettinger was "confident that a good solution can be found satisfying Poland, the EU and the Russian Federation" that "will be found in line with EU law," said spokeswoman Marlene Holzner.

"Open and competitive markets can only emerge if the pipeline can be used by all companies at the same terms," she added at a media briefing.

The deal will run through until 2045, but Poland has yet to sign the contract awaiting advice from Brussels.

The EU's concerns were over management of the pipeline by joint venture EuRoPol Gaz, which is 96 percent owned in equal parts by Gazprom and PGNiG, and controls the Polish section of the lamal-Europe pipeline bringing Siberian gas to Europe.

Negotiations that dragged on for years before the deal was announced were soiled by PGNiG accusations that Gazprom was seeking steep tariff hikes and undue influence over the running of the pipeline.

Such relations between transit partners in Russia's former Soviet sphere of influence have frequently raised fears about threats to Europe's supply, which is hugely dependent on imports from Russia.

© 2010 AFP

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