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Hitting Gazprom critics as EU court upholds antitrust settlement According to Reuters



© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: 3D printed natural gas tubes placed over the Gazprom logo shown in this illustration taken, January 31, 2022. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration

BRUSSELS (Reuters) – Gazprom’s critics suffered a blow on Wednesday when the European Union’s second highest court upheld a 2018 decision allowing the Russian gas giant to settle a protracted antitrust investigation without paying a fine.

The European Commission, the EU’s competition enforcement body, in 2018 accepted a concession from Gazprom (MCX:), which included a commitment to reform its pricing structure and to allow rivals a foothold in the East. Europe. That allows the company to avoid fines that can be as much as 10% of global revenue.

Polish rival PGNiG, the Polish government and several Eastern European countries have criticized the deal as too soft on Gazprom, contrasting with EU antitrust fines imposed on the tech giants of the US is Google (NASDAQ:).

PGNiG objected to the settlement in the Luxembourg-based General Court and also asked the court to drop the Commission’s denial of the Commission’s complaint about Gazprom’s alleged abusive activities.

“The General Court finds that the disputing decision was invalidated by any procedural or fundamental error raised by the applicant,” the court said.

However, the judges overturned the Commission’s decision to dismiss PGNiG’s complaint against Gazprom, saying that the Commission did not respect the company’s procedural rights.

“The decision of the General Court means that the European Commission must review PGNiG’s complaint,” PGNiG CEO Pawel Majewski said on Twitter (NYSE:).

“We hope that the European Commission will take advantage of the opportunity provided by today’s ruling to take decisive action against Gazprom’s violation of competition law,” he added.

Gazprom declined to comment. At the time of its first ruling in 2018, it welcomed the ruling, calling it “the most logical outcome for the good functioning of the entire European gas market.”

Gazprom had to allow customers to ask for lower prices when its prices differed from standards such as those of Western European gas market hubs, eliminating the old system of linking prices to oil prices.

That arrangement has proven controversial. Spot gas prices in Europe hit an all-time high in December, well above Gazprom’s prices in long-term contracts.

Russian officials recently said that Russia is ready to increase gas exports under long-term contracts, which prioritize short-term transactions in the spot market.

The deal also obliges Gazprom, Russia’s gas export monopoly, to remove contractual obligations that prevent customers from reselling their gas.

Wednesday’s rulings come at a sensitive time as Russia has sent some 100,000 troops to the border with Ukraine and the EU, despite its reliance on Russian gas supplies, is threatening Moscow with measures. harsh punishment if it attacks Kyiv.

Last week, the head of the European Union Commission Ursula von der Leyen signaled that the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline could be shut down to transport gas from Russia to Germany.

Judgments can be appealed at the European Court of Justice, Europe’s highest court.

The cases are T-616/18 Polskie Górnictwo Naftowe i Gazownictwo v Commission (Engagements de Gazprom) and T-399/19 Polskie Górnictwo Naftowe i Gazownictwo v Commission (Rejet de plainte).

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