Could it be a sign of thawing business ties between Moscow and Brussels? Russian state gas exporter Gazprom is ready to comply with EU rules, to end a five-year anti-trust case and avoid fines.
It has faced claims of overcharging customers in Central and Eastern Europe – and blocking rivals.
Gazprom has agreed to make changes to price revision clauses in long-term contracts and conditions linked to pipeline infrastructure. It wants to see off a potential fine of up to 10 percent of its global turnover.
As part of the deal, EU regulators said Gazprom will also drop clauses in its supply contracts with wholesalers and some industrial customers barring them from exporting its gas to other countries.
“It’s a good thing that we now have draft commitments and can invite the stakeholders to voice their views, be concerned or otherwise, in order to see if this will work,” said Margrethe Versthager, EU Competition Commissioner.
“Also because we would like prices to be competitive: we would like gas to flow freely, because it actually makes a difference in the households in Eastern and Central European countries.”
The EU executive is likely to face a tough response from the eight states at the heart of it all. Many are already locked in a battle over what they see as lenient treatment of Gazprom in other cases.
Meantime, the EU’s competition commissioner has also said a pipeline – to bring Russian gas to Germany under the Baltic Sea – is not a “project of common interest.”
“The Commission will support the transition of gas through Ukraine. On the legal side of things it has become very clear that the Commission does not find that the North Stream 2 project will be a project of common interest,” said Versthager.
Not fitting into EU efforts to reform the energy market and reduce dependence on Russian gas are said to be the reasons behind it.