* Gazprom deliveries normal until Thursday
* Romania Energy Min to postpone gas price deregulation
* Romanian energy firms may bid for local Enel asset
(Adds market deregulation, Enel)
By Luiza Ilie
BUCHAREST, Sept 16 Romania's energy minister
said on Tuesday Russia was playing games with gas supplies to
cause concerns in EU states, after analysts warned that Moscow
could use the flows to retaliate against sanctions imposed over
its role in Ukraine.
Razvan Nicolescu said Russia's state-owned Gazprom
had warned of an imminent 10 percent cut in gas to the country
on Monday, only to say supplies would keep to their normal
levels until at least Thursday a day later.
"I expect such situations to happen again. It is a game
attempting to cause concern in some EU states. It has happened
in Poland, Slovakia, Austria," Nicolescu told an energy seminar.
"I think those who play such games are going to lose a lot
in the medium and long term by ... damage to their reputation."
Nicolescu said Gazprom had given no reason for the initial
planned cut. The company was not available to comment but said
it was satisying the needs of its "European partners," in a
statement after its board meeting on Tuesday.
With winter approaching, Russia's customers have been on
particularly high alert for any sign Moscow could use its role
as Europe's biggest gas supplier to strike back at economic
penalties imposed by the EU and Washington over Ukraine.
The United States, NATO and Ukraine's government have
accused Russia of sending troops into eastern Ukraine to bolster
pro-Moscow separatist rebels. Russia has dismissed the charge.
Poland, Slovakia and Austria have reported slight declines
in shipments in recent days from Russia.
Poland's deputy prime minister said on Saturday recent
temporary disruptions in supply "were in fact an attempt from
the eastern supplier to test Poland's reaction".
Gazprom said it was not able to supply Poland with the
volumes of natural gas it was requesting. But energy analysts in
Warsaw have said Russia may be using deliveries to Poland to
send Europe a tentative warning it will retaliate if Brussels
goes through with new sanctions.
Romania imports only about a fifth of its gas needs from
Gazprom through intermediaries, and produces the rest in local
fields managed by state-owned producer Romgaz and oil
and gas group Petrom, controlled by Austria's OMV.
Nicolescu said Romania would not be hurt should Russia cut
off supplies even in the event of a harsh winter, as it has
stored significant gas amounts undeground.
Also on Tuesday, Nicolescu said the leftist government would
draft a bill to postpone the deregulation of gas tariffs for
households by at least two and a half years.
Romania has committed to deregulating its gas and power
markets for households and industry by 2018, a deadline
Nicolescu called "one of the most ambitious of all EU states".
Romania's proposed postponement would need approval from the
European Commission, which requires all member states to align
energy prices over a number of years.
"We have social, economic and legal arguments," Nicolescu
said, adding average wages have fallen by 1 percent over the
last two years while gas tariffs have risen 16 percent.
The postponement was hailed by some energy utilities, who
would also like industrial consumers to receive a respite.
"Consumption is declining, a huge number of customers are
(shutting down) ... future price hikes are not affordable," said
Frank Hajdinjak, head of the Romanian unit of Germany's E.ON.
The energy minister also said Romanian state firms were
interested in buying Enel Dobrogea, a local power distributor
owned by Italy's Enel.
Enel plans to sell its Romanian power distribution and sales
assets this year. Nicolescu and the managers of state nuclear
power producer Nuclearelectrica and power supplier Electrica
will hold talks with Enel on Wednesday.
(Reporting by Luiza Ilie; Editing by Andrew Heavens)