MOSCOW, Dec 1 (Reuters) - Moscow and Brussels can work out a dispute over the EU’s Third Energy Package under existing law, their top energy officials said on Thursday, suggesting Russia might avoid a showdown over pipelines with its most important customer.
Russia has expressed anger over European Union regulations, known as the third energy package, that seek to liberalise the European gas market by barring suppliers from controlling the transport infrastructure used to deliver their gas.
“We realise that the third energy package is a set of laws which will be ratified as a matter of obligation,” Russia’s Energy Minister Sergei Shmatko said after meeting European Union Energy Commissioner Guenther Oettinger.
“We determined that we can resolve this under current legislation,” he said.
Russian export monopoly Gazprom, which supplies a quarter or more of Europe’s gas via expensively built transnational pipeline systems, says such investments make no sense if it cannot benefit from them as an energy supplier.
Last month at the launch of the new Gazprom-led Nord Stream pipeline, which will carry 55 billion cubic metres per year of Russian gas, German Chanceller Angela Merkel told Oettinger the EU should change what it “could not explain”, suggesting Germany sought flexibility.
Oettinger, speaking in German through a Russian translator, told the news conference that changes to the third package were “undesirable and unrealistic”.
“At the same time there are possibilities for relief and exceptions,” he said.
Shmatko and Oettinger, who co-chair an EU-Russia working group on energy, said they would meet again in coming months in the presence of regulators from individual EU states.
“I would not rule out resolving a fair number of regulatory conflicts (over pipelines) at the level of national regulators,” Shmatko told reporters after the meeting.
Some Russian energy analysts believe Russia could strike a compromise with the EU which would ensure third parties had adequate access to Gazprom-controlled pipeline infrastructure and meet third package principles without any change in control.
Oettinger declined to comment on the substance of the investigations, and said such checks were routine for the commission’s competition authorities across European industry. (Reporting by Melissa Akin and Vladimir Soldatkin; editing by John Bowker and Keiron Henderson)