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EC, Gazprom reach amicable settlement to close antimonopoly probe without fines

The European Commission says decision on Gazprom will lift barriers to free flow of gas to Europe
EU Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager  AP Photo/Geert Vanden Wijngaert
EU Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager
© AP Photo/Geert Vanden Wijngaert

BRUSSELS, May 24. /TASS/. The European Commission (EC) and Gazprom have reached an agreement to end antitrust probe against Russia’s top gas producer without fines, the EU Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager told a press conference on Thursday.

"If Gazprom fails to comply with any of its obligations the consequences can be serious. The Commission can then impose a fine of up to 10% of the company’s worldwide turnover," she said.

The binding obligations on Gazprom will be in place for eight years.

The decision requires Gazprom to remove all contractual barriers to the free flow of gas in Central and Eastern European gas markets, regardless of whether they make cross-border sales impossible or merely financially less attractive. Customers can demand lower price when their gas price diverges from competitive Western European price benchmarks. New gas price must be set in line with price level in competitive Continental Western European gas markets. Furthermore, as the Commission was concerned that "Gazprom leveraged its dominant market position on the gas supply market to obtain advantages with regard to the access to or control of gas infrastructure," the company will not benefit from advantages that it has obtained. Neither will it seek any damages from its Bulgarian partners following the termination of the South Stream project, the Commissioner noted.

Gazprom’a clients in Europe will be able to revise gas prices within 120 days reflecting competitive benchmarks, she added.

The decision adopted by the Commission will remove barriers to a free flow of gas to Europe and impose a set of obligations on Gazprom, Vestager said.

"All companies doing business in Europe have to respect European rules on competition, no matter where they are from. Today's decision removes obstacles created by Gazprom, which stand in the way of the free flow of gas in Central and Eastern Europe. Our decision provides a tailor-made rulebook for Gazprom's future conduct," she emphasized.

"It obliges Gazprom to take positive steps to further integrate gas markets in the region and to help realise a true internal market for energy in Europe. And it gives Gazprom customers in Central and Eastern Europe an effective tool to make sure the price they pay is competitive. As always, this case is not about the flag of the company - it is about achieving the outcome that best serves European consumers and businesses. And the case doesn't stop with today's decision - rather it is the enforcement of the Gazprom obligations that starts today," the Commissioner said.

Russia’s top gas producer will stay a dominant player on the EU market for a long time, particularly on the markets of Central and Eastern Europe, Vestager said, adding that the binding obligations are aimed at preventing the company from violating its dominance.

Gazprom "satisfied" with EC decision 

Gazprom is "satisfied" with the decision, Russia’s top gas producer said in a statement.

"We believe that today’s decision is the most reasonable outcome for the well-functioning of the entire European gas market," Gazprom’s Deputy CEO Alexander Medvedev was quoted as saying.

According to Medvedev, the company is "satisfied with the commitments decision."

As reported earlier the European Commission had imposed binding obligations on Gazprom to enable free flow of gas at competitive prices in Central and Eastern European gas markets.