* European Commission says confident its laws comply
* Third Energy Package forces owners to share pipeline
(Updates with European Commission reaction, context)
GENEVA May 1 Russia has requested talks with
the European Union on the EU's energy rules that challenge
Gazprom's business model, in a possible first step towards
filing a dispute at the World Trade Organization, WTO officials
said on Thursday.
The EU introduced the legislative package in 2009 with the
aim of opening up gas and electricity markets, but Russia has
objected strongly to it even before the current crisis in its
ties with the European Union.
The legislation is an obstacle, for instance, to the giant
South Stream pipeline, which Russia is seeking to build to
bypass gas transit nation Ukraine. The Commission says the
project does not comply with its laws.
Russia's request to the WTO on Wednesday concerns several
aspects, including a requirement on granting access to natural
gas and electricity networks, which forces Russian firms, such
as Gazprom to sell stakes and cede market share.
It also pertains to EU measures on the production, supply
and transmission of natural gas and electricity and alleged
discriminatory requirements for certificating third countries.
John Clancy, European Commission spokesman for trade, said
the European Union's laws were sound.
"The EU is confident that the energy regulation, now
challenged by Russia, is fully compatible with WTO rules and is
ready to explain this in consultations with Russia," he said.
The Russian Federation said the EU measures were
inconsistent with WTO agreements on services, as well as on
subsidies and countervailing measures, WTO officials said.
WTO members have 30 days to begin talks to try to resolve a
dispute. If these fail, after 60 days a country may ask the
WTO's Dispute Settlement Body to establish a dispute panel.
The EU and United States have imposed visa bans and asset
freezes on some Russians in protest at Moscow's annexation of
Ukraine's Crimea region.
Russia joined the WTO less than two years ago and has become
embroiled in trade disputes with the EU and Japan.
(Reporting by Stephanie Nebehay; additional reporting by
Barbara Lewis in Brussels; editing by Jason Neely and William