BRUSSELS (Reuters) - The European Commission voiced strong opposition on Wednesday to the idea of an OPEC-style cartel of gas producers after world gas powers Russia, Iran and Qatar moved to strengthen cooperation.
The European Union executive said no such cartel had been announced and it would expect to be notified of any move to create such an arrangement, which could prompt the 27-nation EU to revise its energy policy.
“In principle, the Commission is against cartels for the sale and marketing of products, and hydrocarbons are no exception to that. We believe the best conditions for the sale of a product such as gas are a free and transparent market,” Commission energy spokesman Ferran Tarradellas said.
Russia’s gas export monopoly Gazprom said on Tuesday it had agreed with Iran and Qatar to form a “big gas troika,” which should become a permanent body holding regular meetings.
Iranian Oil Minister Gholamhossein Nozari said there was a consensus to establish “a gas OPEC.”
Tarradellas said the EU executive had no objection to cooperation among gas producers in research and development. He declined to say how the creation of a gas cartel could affect the EU’s embryonic energy policy.
At a gas conference in Paris, senior executives of two of Europe’s biggest gas distributors, GDF Suez and E.ON Ruhrgas, played down the prospect and said it could be useful.
“We have the feeling that the forum project is not necessarily a cartel -- if it was we would condemn it -- but that it is a place for dialogue and we would be prepared to regard it favorably,” said Gerard Mestrallet, chief executive of GDF Suez, France’s biggest gas utility.
E.ON Rurhgas’ chairman Bernhard Reutersberg said he was not “really” concerned by Iran, Russia and Qatar’s plans to set up a gas grouping as his German company was shielded by long-term supply contracts.
“We have long lasting contracts with most of these countries, specifically with Russia,” he told the conference.
(Reporting by Paul Taylor, additional reporting by Muriel
Boselli in Paris, editing by Dale Hudson)
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