December 21, 2012 / 5:35 PM / 7 years ago

Russia's Putin says EU energy law is "uncivilized"

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - Russian President Vladimir Putin on Friday condemned European Union energy legislation as “uncivilised”, particularly the retroactive application of new competition rules.

Russia is the European Union’s biggest natural gas supplier, and in turn the European Union is Russia’s biggest customer, but relations between the two are frosty.

An EU antitrust case against Russian gas export monopoly Gazprom as well as EU attempts to diversify its energy suppliers away from Russia and legislation to encourage competition have particularly angered Moscow.

Putin was particularly critical of the Third Energy Package of EU legislation to create a single energy market and prevent those that dominate supply, such as Gazprom, from also dominating distribution networks.

“Of course the EU has the right to take any decisions, but as I have mentioned ... we are stunned by the fact that this decision is given retroactive force,” Putin told reporters on the sidelines of a Russia-EU summit in Brussels.

“It is an absolutely uncivilised decision.”

To try to settle their differences, Russia and the European Union hold regular dialogue and on Friday held the 30th summit between the two powers.

It delivered no concrete progress, although Energy Minister Alexander Novak said Russia had presented the European Commission with new proposals on the legal status of its gas pipeline infrastructure.

Novak said Gazprom is seeking full access for half a year to Germany’s Opal pipeline, which is plugged into its Nord Stream undersea export pipeline.

The access would allow Gazprom to increase supplies to Germany and beyond via Nord Stream, which was built under the Baltic Sea to bypass transit countries such as Ukraine, with which Russia has had pricing disputes.

EU restrictions have prevented Gazprom from substantially increasing gas supplies via Nord Stream. Sources at the Russian company said it has been shipping just over 20 percent of the pipeline’s capacity of 55 billion cubic metres a year.

Russia has also been seeking an exemption from EU regulations for its planned South Stream pipeline, designed to start carrying gas under the Black Sea in 2015.

Reporting by Alexei Anishchuk; Writing by Barbara Lewis; Editing by Charlie Dunmore and Jane Baird

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