EU's top court overrules decision on Gazprom's access to Opal pipeline

EU's top court overrules decision on Gazprom's access to Opal pipeline
FILE PHOTO: The logo of Russian gas giant Gazprom is seen on a board at the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum (SPIEF), Russia, June 6, 2019. REUTERS/Maxim Shemetov Copyright Maxim Shemetov(Reuters)
Copyright Maxim Shemetov(Reuters)
By Reuters
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WARSAW/BRUSSELS (Reuters) - Europe's top court on Tuesday overruled an EU decision allowing Russia's Gazprom <GAZP.MM> to ship more gas via the Opal gas pipeline which links its Nord Stream pipeline to Germany.

In 2016, the EU executive raised a cap on Gazprom's use of Opal, which carries gas from the Nord Stream pipeline that crosses the Baltic Sea to customers in Germany and the Czech Republic.

Polish state-run gas firm PGNiG <PGN.WA> took legal action against that decision, which opened the way for Russian plans to expand Nord Stream's capacity and bypass both Ukraine and Poland as a gas transit route.

"The General Court annuls the Commission decision approving the modification of the exemption regime for the operation of the Opal gas pipeline," the European Court of Justice said in a statement. "That decision was adopted in breach of the principle of energy solidarity."

Poland, which imports most of its gas from Russia, criticized the Commission's move saying it threatened gas supplies to central and eastern Europe.

"The court has agreed with our arguments," Polish Energy Minister Krzysztof Tchorzewski told reporters on Tuesday.

The Opal decision as well as Gazprom's plan to build a Nord Stream 2 pipeline, play into fears of the Polish conservative government which sees pacts between its powerful neighbours, Germany and Russia, as an existential threat.

(Reporting by Agnieszka Barteczko and Anna Koper in Warsaw and Phil Blenkinsop in Brussels; editing by Jason Neely and Susan Fenton)

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