BRUSSELS, October 31. /TASS/. A new deadline set by the European Commission on making a decision on the OPAL pipeline 100-percent gas-in until the end of January is a “purely political step,” Russian Energy Minister Aleksandr Novak told reporters on Friday.
Earlier on Thursday, the European Commission again extended the deadline on OPAL till January 2015.
A European source has told TASS that the new deadline can be explained by the fact that this decision will be made by a new composition of the European Commission that starts work on November 1.
Earlier, TASS reported that on September 15 the European Commission informed Russia’s Energy Ministry that a new deadline for making a decision on the OPAL gas pipeline had been set for October 31. The European Commission has been delaying its decision on Gazprom’s use of the OPAL gas pipeline capacities since March 10.
European sources told TASS in October that the European Commission would not decide on exempting the OPAL gas pipeline from the Third Energy Package until the end of the gas talks between Russia and Ukraine with the EU’s mediation.
“If the talks with Ukraine end without reaching a compromise, the EC is highly likely to allow Gazprom to use 100% of the OPAL capacities but only for the period until March 2015,” one of the sources said.
“But if the talks crown with a success, we should be ready that the European Commission will gradually postpone its decision until next year, watching the practical development of the situation,” the source said.
The OPAL gas pipeline, which has an annual capacity of 36 billion cubic meters and runs along Germany’s eastern border, provides a link from Russia’s Nord Stream gas pipe running on the Baltic Sea bed to Europe’s existing gas transport networks. The OPAL pipeline pumps Russian natural gas across Germany and farther to the Czech Republic.
Under the rules of the Third Energy Package, Gazprom is required to reserve up to 50% of the OPAL gas pipeline’s capacities for gas transportation by independent gas suppliers.
Gazprom turned to the European Commission in late 2013 with a request to exclude the OPAL gas pipeline from the rules of the Third Energy Package, which requires the separation of gas production, transportation and sale to prevent gas suppliers from dominating the infrastructure.
The German Economy Ministry has insisted on providing full access for Gazprom to the OPAL pipeline over the threat of interruptions in Russia’s natural gas transit via Ukraine.
However, the EU has postponed until late October a decision on providing full access for Gazprom to the OPAL gas pipeline.
Under the norms of Europe’s Third Energy Package, a part of the OPAL gas pipeline capacities must be reserved for independent suppliers. In practice, however, this reservation only limits Russian natural gas supplies to Europe via the Nord Stream gas pipeline, which is currently the most reliable transit route to Europe amid the existing risks of gas supplies across Ukraine.