Bulgaria Could Reopen Anti-trust Probe into Gazprom: Report

Bulgaria is not happy with Gazprom, and the Russian company could face the re-opening of an antitrust case the European Commission had led against the Russian gas export monopoly over suspected abuse of its dominant position in the Eastern European gas market, Euractiv reports.

According to the report, the case is very likely to become part of the new Commission’s agenda. Sources in Sofia said that Bulgarian state-owned gas supplier Bulgargaz is preparing to ask the Commission to resume antitrust proceedings against Gazprom because of the Russian company’s failure to fulfill one of its key promises.

It concerns Gazprom’s commitment to adjust Russian gas prices to average market prices in the EU, which had allowed the European Commission to drop the case.

On 24 May 2018, the European Commission, led by the Vice-President for Competition Policy Margrethe Vestager, closed its antitrust investigation against Gazprom. The case lasted seven years and ended without a fine, but with important conditions – the Russian company was to slash down prices and stop efforts to prevent competition from accessing the Eastern European market.

The probe concerned Gazprom’s alleged abuse of its dominance in the gas markets in Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Hungary, and Slovakia.

The course of the case clearly identified the market prices for natural gas in Europe. These are the prices of continental hubs, as well as average border prices for Germany, France, and Italy. The price of Russian gas for Bulgaria was not a concern until the end of 2018. Problems appeared from the start of 2019 when stock (hub) prices went down significantly.

According to Bulgargaz, the Bulgarian request for price renegotiation was sent in early August last year, and the deadline for reaching an agreement between the two countries expired, without a result, 120 days later (in early December).

Reportedly, negotiations between Bulgargaz and Gazprom over the past half-year were intensive but unsuccessful. Sources said the lack of response to a series of Bulgarian proposals is a way for Gazprom to delay the process of revising the contract price and there is obviously no desire on the part of the Russians to reach an agreement.

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