GAZPROM, the state-owned Russian energy giant, yesterday accused the European Commission of a politically-motivated attempt to bring down EU gas prices.
The European Commission opened an investigation last September into suspected anti-competitive market practices by Gazprom, stoking tension in relations between the European Union and its biggest gas supplier.
Alexander Medvedev, deputy chief executive of Gazprom, said through an interpreter that they had doubts about the EU regulator’s intentions and asked if it was an attempt to “depress gas prices by artificial means” as opposed to through commercial negotiation.
He was speaking to industry and EU officials at an annual conference on the gas aspect of ongoing EU-Russia dialogue.
Philip Lowe, director general of the Commission’s energy department, said complaints of abuse of a dominant position had to be investigated and if found justified, would be addressed.
The Commission has the power to fine companies up to 10 per cent of annual turnover if they are found to be in breach of EU competition rules.
It has fined Microsoft Corp more than €2.2bn (£1.9bn) in the past decade for anti-competitive behaviour.
When it launched its investigation into Gazprom, the Commission said it was concerned Russia was abusing its position in central and eastern Europe and imposing unfair prices.
The cost of energy is an issue for the European Union as a whole, particularly given concerns about its competitiveness as the United States benefits from cheap shale gas.