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European Commission expects no problems with gas supplies to EU during upcoming winter

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Sept. 5, 2012, 6:14 p.m. | Ukraine — by Interfax-Ukraine

The European Commission has not seen any signals indicating that Russia will experience complications in supplying gas to Europe during the upcoming winter, official EC representative Marlene Holzner said at a Wednesday briefing in Brussels.
© AFP

BRUSSELS - The European Commission has not seen any signals indicating that Russia will experience complications in supplying gas to Europe during the upcoming winter, official EC representative Marlene Holzner said at a Wednesday briefing in Brussels.

If it becomes clear that gas supplies have met with difficulties in the next few months, the EC is much more prepared for such a possibility right now than it was in the past, she said.

There was a crisis in this area in 2009, but since then the EC has changed its legal arsenal, the chief provision of which lies in each European Union country being required to position itself so that its enterprises have at least 30 days worth of gas reserves in case of emergency, she said.

During the previous gas crisis, Western Europe did not possess the needed number of gas pipelines to urgently deliver gas to a number of countries; for example, Bulgaria. Today Western Europe has these pipelines and is in a much better position to confront difficulties on the gas market, Holzner said.

The EU is conducting negotiations with Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan in order to secure gas supplies from these countries as well, thereby guaranteeing more diversified supply sources in the future. If the EU comes up against trouble with one of its partners, it can simply turn to another, she said.

Holzner also drew attention to the fact that bilateral gas agreements signed by EU countries sometimes fail to comply with European law, especially energy law. She said that the EC can ask and has already asked its member states to alter these international agreements.

The EC would like to go even further. When such agreements are being discussed in negotiations, the EC would like to know what they will entail, Holzner said. The EC has crafted such a proposal, and the European Parliament should vote on it next week, after which it will have to be approved by the EU Council.

At this stage, the EC can monitor the gas agreement, for example, between Bulgaria and Gazprom once it is signed and verify whether or not it complies with European law. If not, the EC can ask Bulgaria to change it; otherwise, it will initiate a procedure on legal violations, she said.

The EU is interested in competition on the domestic market so that consumers can take advantage of the most favorable prices, and infrastructure for this purpose is being studied. If a gas pipeline has a single owner, then it is unlikely that others will be able to use it. This is why legislation also extends to pipelines. There is a general rule for this that must be applied, Holzner said.

Prices for gas pipeline use and all of the accompanying conditions should be identical for all companies that want to take advantage of them. A situation in which the operator of a gas pipeline provides one company with better conditions than it offers another company cannot be tolerated. All of the same services should have the same price, Holzner said.

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