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Chizhov: European antimonopoly inquiry may have outcome favorable for Gazprom

September 14, 2012, 18:42 UTC+3

There have been such precedents before, including in Russia’s practice, he added

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BRUSSELS, September 14 (Itar-Tass) — The European Commission’s antimonopoly inquiry may have an outcome favorable for Gazprom, Russian Permanent Representative to the European Union Vladimir Chizhov said in comment on the Thursday meeting with European Competition Commissioner Joaquin Almunia.

“The inquiry may have results favorable for Gazprom. There have been such precedents before, including in Russia’s practice. We would like to avoid excessive politicization of this case and to prevent unnecessary emotions on both sides,” he said.

“Almunia confirmed that the European Commission would not anticipate results of the inquiry. He said the European Commission was ready for an objective and impartial analysis of Gazprom arguments,” Chizhov said.

“Even if the European Commission does not drop its claims to Gazprom, the case may be settled with an amicable agreement or, at least, Gazprom may turn to court, where the victory of the European Commission would not be predetermined,” he noted.

Neither the Russian envoy nor the European commissioner could say how long the inquiry might take.

“European antimonopoly inquiries into such companies as Google or Microsoft show that the procedure takes several years. It is impossible to predict how long this inquiry may take,” Chizhov said.

The Russian presidential ordinance, “On the Protection of Russian Interests in Foreign Economic Activity of Russian Legal Entities”, does not shift the burden of defense of the Russian company’s interests in the situation with the European Commission on the national administration, he said in answer to an Itar-Tass question.

“Gazprom will independently interact with the European Commission. Yet the new ordinance offers an additional form of governmental control of such complex inquiries and foreign economic activity of Russian companies on the rather short strategic list,” he said.

The European Commission announced on September 4 that it would start an anti-dumping inquiry into Gazprom.

The European Commission initiated the formal procedure to see whether the Russian gas supplier, Gazprom, was breaching European competition norms, particularly in Eastern and Central European countries – Poland, Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Bulgaria and Hungary.

It will scrutinize the situation in the countries that import from two-thirds to the whole of their gas from Gazprom. European norms stipulate a fine of up to 10% of the company annual turnover – more than 10 billion euros in the case of Gazprom- for violations of the sort.

Chizhov told Itar-Tass earlier that the European Commission’s antimonopoly inquiry into Gazprom derived from the policy of certain EU member countries attempting to nationalize pipelines.

“To a large extent, this decision is linked with the policy of certain member countries of the European Union. Especially, as there is a public confession of the Lithuanian government,” the official said, implying the Lithuanian statement welcoming the start of the European Commission inquiry into the Russian gas monopoly entity. The Lithuanian premier said the important decision of the European Commission could significantly change the situation on the European gas market and the policy of Gazprom in the Baltic republics and whole Eastern Europe. Back in January 2011 Lithuania complained to the European Commission about Gazprom’s abuse of its dominant position on the market. The European Commission did not conceal that the document became a formal ground for starting the inquiry.

“True, Gazprom meets the Lithuanian gas demand at 100%. But who is responsible for its dominant position on that market after Vilnius had to close down the Ignalina nuclear power plant by demand of the European Union?” Chizhov wondered.



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