Europe’s gas supply squeeze engineered by Russia, Poland says

Statements from Russian officials linking an increase of gas deliveries to Europe with the completion of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline are “manipulative” and aimed at cementing Gazprom’s dominant position on the EU gas market, Poland has argued in a letter to the European Commission.

Gazprom is currently seeking German and EU regulatory approval before pumping gas through Nord Stream 2, a pipeline that bypasses Russia’s traditional Ukraine route to Europe.

But transmission pipes in Poland and Ukraine are currently underutilised, making the new pipeline unnecessary, Poland argued in the letter, addressed to EU antitrust chief Margrethe Vestager.

For Warsaw, “the goal seems to be clear – to obtain a privileged position on the market for Gazprom and Nord Stream 2 by abuse of dominant position, undermining of the EU legal system,” said the letter, signed by Poland’s climate and environment minister Michał Kurtyka and dated 19 October.

Moscow’s attempt to link the increase of European gas deliveries with the completion of Nord Stream 2 “can only be treated as a misleading and manipulative attempt and clearly show the instrumentalisation of gas supplies by Russia to achieve a political objective,” said the letter, seen by EURACTIV.

Based on this, and a market analysis of Gazprom’s behaviour in recent months, Poland called on the Commission to “initiate an in-depth investigation” into Gazprom for potential abuse of dominant market position.

Gas prices surged to record highs in recent weeks as the bloc’s main gas supplier, Russia, kept a tight lid on deliveries, signalling further price pressures on European consumers heading into the winter heating season.

Gazprom has offered little or no extra capacity to ease pressure on the EU gas market, even though it has fulfilled its long-term contracts with its European clients, the European Commission said last week.

“We’re fulfilling all our contracts, all our obligations,” confirmed Konstantin Kosachyov, a top pro-Kremlin legislator in the upper house of the Russian parliament.

“Everything on top of that should be a subject for additional voluntary and mutually beneficial agreements,” he said in an interview earlier this week, according to news agency Bloomberg.

For Warsaw, this shows that Gazprom is seeking to abuse its dominant position on the EU market, something that is prohibited under EU competition law.

To back its argument, Warsaw noted several practices by Gazprom which it said are “different from its behaviour in previous years and from standard behaviour of other market participants”. Among those, it cited:

  • Gazprom has made no additional capacity bookings via the Yamal pipeline or via the Ukrainian Gas Transmission System (UGTS).
  • Limiting gas flows through routes other than Nord Stream 1, despite the high level of gas production in Russia and rising demand for gas across the EU.
  • A historically low level of European gas storage facilities operated by Gazprom, which are on average filled at 26% compared with the EU average of 757%.
  • Gazprom delivering long-term contracts only and limiting sales via its electronic sales platform.

According to Warsaw, “this creates a picture of a set of deliberate measures resulting in the undersupply of gas from the Russian direction accompanied by creating a false sense of urgency to start the operation of Nord Stream 2”.

[Edited by Zoran Radosavljevic]


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