Gazprom’s evolving strategy in a new commercial and political context: how should the EU react?

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Series Details April 2015
Publication Date 27/04/2015
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After years of unchallenged commercial domination of a sizeable portion of the EU's gas market, Gazprom is confronted with a statement of objections issued on 22 April 2015 by the European Commission for abusing its dominant market position.

The company was already prevented from going ahead with its South Stream project aimed at consolidating Gazprom's grip on Southeast Europe's markets by bypassing Ukraine – due to alleged non-compliance of intergovernmental agreements with the EU regulatory framework. Furthermore, it walked away from negotiations that could have allowed it to access more than 50% of the OPAL pipeline – an onshore branch of the offshore Russian German Nord Stream pipeline –, whilst its attempts to go downstream through the acquisition of European distribution and transmission operators, such as Wingas and DESFA, failed due to current political tensions and the risk of a negative Commission ruling on the operation.

Does this mean that the Russian gas behemoth – so often portrayed as the energy arm of the Kremlin – is not so powerful after all? This Policy Brief aims to frame the erosion of Gazprom's power in a wider perspective, analysing its peculiar position at a time of transition, with the global gas business going from a sellers' to a buyers' market, and providing recommendations on how Europe should deal with it.

It will be argued that Gazprom – despite still being affected by the Kremlin's political priorities – is moving towards more commercially sound behavior. The EU should profit from this evolution without being tempted by mercantilist options, and rather use the political momentum provided by the energy union to remove barriers to solidarity and to increase competition on the trading platforms.

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Related Links
ESO: Background information: Antitrust: Commission sends Statement of Objections to Gazprom for alleged abuse of dominance on Central and Eastern European gas supply markets
Politico, 08.05.15: [Opinion]: Gazprom is going down

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