EU court rejects Polish bid to halt Opal pipeline deal, verdict in 2019

The logo of Russian gas giant Gazprom is seen on a board at the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum 2017 (SPIEF 2017) in St. Petersburg, Russia, June 1, 2017. Picture taken June 1, 2017. REUTERS/Sergei Karpukhin

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - A European Commission deal giving Gazprom GAZP.MM a bigger share of the Opal gas pipeline can go ahead for now until a ruling is issued in 2019, Europe's second-highest court said on Friday in a rejection of a Polish bid to halt the move.

The EU executive’s decision lifting the cap on Russian state-controlled Gazprom’s use of the pipeline in October last year angered Poland as it would erode the country’s role as a transit site and its influence in future gas supply talks.

The pipeline carries gas from the Nord Stream pipeline under the Baltic Sea to customers in Germany and the Czech Republic.

The Luxembourg-based General Court suspended the EU decision in December last year following a challenge by Poland, state-run gas firm PGNiG PGN.WA and PGNiG Supply & Trading.

The plaintiffs said Gazprom’s increased gas transports via Opal would result in less gas for two other pipelines, threatening Polish gas supply.

Court President Marc Jaeger said he was revoking the suspension because there was no proof of serious harm.

“The applicants have failed to show that the harm suffered as a result of the contested decision is serious and irreparable and therefore that decision remains applicable until delivery of the judgments on its lawfulness,” he said.

“In the light of the average duration of proceedings before the General Court, the judgments on the substance in the present cases will probably be delivered during 2019.”

Gazprom supplies about a third of Europe’s gas needs.

Reporting by Foo Yun Chee. Editing by Jane Merriman