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EPP MEP Ramona Mănescu: Will it be a GasGate after the DieselGate?

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EPP MEP Ramona Mănescu rises the question of a GasGate at the European level after the recent DieselGate, in an op-ed signed on Wednesday. 

”We are witnessing these days the first stages of a scandal that threatens to shake the very foundations of European construction. 

A few days ago, the Polish publication Biznes Alert published a 272-page document, dated 2015, which comes directly from the Directorate-General for Competition’s offices. This document is the result of an anti-trust investigation launched by the European Commission in 2011. At that time, dozens of offices belonging to Gazprom commercial partners from Central and Eastern Europe were searched and over 150,000 documents were seized”, says Mănescu in an analysis that explains howMoscow as a weapon and a mean for political pressure.

Regarding her country, the Romanian MEP points out that ”although Romania is not included in DG Comp’s dossier and is not directly affected, we cannot ignore the fact that we are, in our turn, part of regional projects of common interest”.

”Romania does not have to and cannot follow an ostrich policy in this scandal. We also need to follow our discussions, position ourselves clearly, and support common energy policies. Moreover, we need to support our friends in difficult moments, as we would like ourselves to be supported”, she added.

Ramona Mănescu’s full op-ed:

“We are witnessing these days the first stages of a scandal that threatens to shake the very foundations of European construction.

A few days ago, the Polish publication Biznes Alert published a 272-page document, dated 2015, which comes directly from the Directorate-General for Competition’s offices. This document is the result of an anti-trust investigation launched by the European Commission in 2011. At that time, dozens of offices belonging to Gazprom commercial partners from Central and Eastern Europe were searched and over 150,000 documents were seized.

The DG Comp document brings in front of a huge audience the real, unskilled image of how gas is used by Moscow as a weapon and a mean for political pressure. Gazprom, the largest gas supplier in the world, with a 15% share of global gas needs, partner in large investment projects with companies such as ENGIE, OMV, Shell, Uniper or Wintershall, the main foreign gas supplier for the European Union is not a commercial company, but an important tool in Russia’s geopolitical games.

Also, the information leaked from the European Commission allows us to guess, for the first time at such a level, the way dark politics are working. Behind very tight closed doors, large European countries, exactly those that have initiated this union, starting from a set of common ethical values ​​and principles, are bending now the laws according to their own financial interests or those of private companies.

What is all about?

The document that got out to the press, under its thick layer of bureaucratic and technical language, leaves a few deeply worrying things to be understood.

First of all, it talks about a deliberate violation of European Union law and systematic political intimidation for almost 10 years, practiced by the Kremlin, through Gazprom.

More worrying is that the situation seems to have been known, accepted and supported, at least by Germany. The effect? While the Germans pay $ 200 / 1,000mc of gas, the Poles pay $ 350 / 1,000mc of gas. The difference is too great to be justified by technical or economic arguments. If the DieselGate scandal was not so tangible in its effects for the European consumer, we are now talking about a direct effect in the citizen’s pockets. The situation covers eight countries: Poland, Bulgaria, Hungary, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Slovakia. Unfortunately, the exact figures are not accessible, the document being heavily censored. The only available numbers are those that were made public by Poland. However, it is clear that tens of millions of consumers, captive to Gazprom, will very soon want to find out how much they have paid from their own pockets so Germany to obtain preferential prices.

Beyond these two easy-to-understand elements, there were many other activities of Gazprom with a more technical character, meant to keep European citizens in a state of dependence, to undermine Member States individual negotiating power and undermine the Union’s energy security and stability. Gazprom’s actions focused on segmentation of the market, the isolation of different markets along national borders and territorial restrictions in the form of contractual terms prohibiting exports or certain destinations. Moreover, using its dominant position, Gazprom imposed to PGNiG (Poland) and to BEH (Bulgaria) conditions that are considered as “exploitative abuse”. More specifically, Russia has forced Poland and Bulgaria to accept, in exchange for gas supply, conditions unrelated to the subject matter of the contract but favouring Russian interests. In Poland, Gazprom obtained a veto position within the Polish company Europol, blocking or postponing commercial decisions. In Bulgaria, among others, it has forced BEH to participate in a project, against its will.

Repair measures proposed by the EU Commission

In the DG Comp file, the proposed measures target each of the identified problems. At the time when the analysis was finalized, the problems were still undergoing. More specifically, DG Comp proposes removing territorial restrictions, ending unfair pricing practices and stopping gas supply conditioning from accepting incorrect and illegal contract terms.

At the same time, the Commission has the possibility to impose fines following infringement of Article 102 TFEU and / or Article 54 of the EEA Agreement. Fines can amount to up to 10% of last year’s turnover. Considering the conclusions highlight that all law violations by Gazprom have been ongoing and done with intention since 2004, the financial penalty looks more than justified. In addition, in order to determine Gazprom to comply, the Commission may apply additional periodic fines, up to 5% of the daily turnover value.

These remedies have been the subject of lengthy negotiations between the Commission and Gazprom, the conclusion being expected later this month. The confidential document leak to the press, which accuses not only Gazprom but also Russia, raising serious questions about a guileful game made by Germany, is not accidental. There is a rumour about a deal between the Commission and Gazprom. The Russian company will focus on correcting the technical conditions over an eight years period, avoiding the huge fine.

Questions and repercussions

The main questions are related to the game played by Germany. Officially, Germany supports European policies to diversify energy sources, to reduce dependence on Russia and to increase energy security by expanding and interconnecting national gas transport networks.

These policies represent a strategic goal of the European Union in recent years. That is why projects such as BRUA have received hundreds of millions of euros of funding from the EU budget.

However, unofficially, Germany is the main supporter of Nord Stream 2, a pipeline with a capacity of 55 bn cbm, which should supplement Nord Stream 1, linking Russia directly to Germany and completely bypassing the main transit country – Ukraine. This project comes in complete opposition to the European strategies in this domain and strengthens Russia’s dominant position.

The lack of economic arguments for investing in Nord Stream 2 is obvious, considering that now, the European Union has a natural gas import capacity of 700 bn cbm (of which 490 by pipelines), but uses only half of it importing approximately 350 bn cbm.

Still, Uniper and Wintershall, both German companies, are investing together with Gazprom at Nord Stream 2, followed by OMV (Austria), ENGIE (France) and Shell (Netherlands – UK). The influence of these companies on their governments as well as the geopolitical interests of the countries involved are those that contradict the economic arguments and offer political support to the Nord Stream 2 project.

This situation reminds me of Jean-Claude Juncker declaration given on the occasion of the recent presence of President Macron in the plenary of the European Parliament: “Europe is not just a Franco-German. We are 28 Member States“. I also recall the question to President Macron, left unanswered: “How does the idea of ​​a united and powerful Europe reconcile with the actions and attitudes, not at all democratic or solid, of powerful Member States that lead to the widening of the East and West?

As a result of this new scandal, I believe that Nord Stream 2 has greatly reduced its chances of being built. The Western companies involved will not risk a double threat stemming from both economic sanctions against Russia and from the opposing European public opinion.

Meanwhile, we must not overlook the fact that this scandal, which is at the beginning, is growing in its awareness among European citizens. Soon, the Poles, Bulgarians, Estonians or the Czechs will want to know how much they paid on Russian gas in order for the Germans to pay less.

Facing growing trust issues between the East and the West of Europe and not forgetting other issues, such as the differences in quality of consumer products between western and eastern markets, this new scandal is likely to raise the tensions to a whole new level. The situation is even worse if someone connects this GasGate with the older DiselGate. That recent scandal has shaken Germany and has shown unfair and non-competitive practices, not limited to a few individuals or procedures but are an intrinsic management element of major companies such as Volkswagen. DiselGate forced Volkswagen to assume the guilt and pay fines exceeding $ 25 billion in the US, while in Europe the case is not yet closed.

There is in this GasGate a huge explosive potential and a great danger to the consistency of the European project, when many European citizens will conclude that their money have been stolen, and this scam succeeded with the help of presumed friends.

What should be done?

I believe that the moment of hiding the misery under the rug has already passed. The document leaked from DG Comp and its implications can no longer be denied.

I also believe that the democratic defence mechanisms we have at our disposal are the safest answer. If the Commission’s neutrality could be questioned, this isn’t the case with the European Parliament. This fundamental and democratic institution of the European Union must get involved, ask for a hearing of those involved – not just DG Comp but also of economic and even political actors in the Member States.

As large IT companies have been summoned to Parliament, in the defence EU’s citizens interests, the same should be done in this case. Moreover, if Google received a 2.42 bn euro fine for “distorting the market”, 14 years of Gazprom’s breach of law and “exploitative abuse” over European citizens and companies can’t lead to just waiting for them to return to legality. That if we still want to keep the trust of the citizens.

I appreciated Mr Junker’s statement on the occasion of the 2017 European Union: “Europe must be a Union of equality and a Union in which we are all equal. Equality between its members, whether large or small, east or west, north or south“. I think it is time for Europe to demonstrate, not just to declare, that its citizens are equal, and that there are no countries of first and second rank. The risks involved in failure to do so are extremely serious.

It is also time for everyone to understand that only a united Europe can face the challenges of the future but also of the present. On their own, even the big European countries will become small in a not too distant future, no matter if they accept it or not.

Although Romania is not included in DG Comp’s dossier and is not directly affected, we cannot ignore the fact that we are, in our turn, part of regional projects of common interest. Romania does not have to and cannot follow an ostrich policy in this scandal. We also need to follow our discussions, position ourselves clearly, and support common energy policies. Moreover, we need to support our friends in difficult moments, as we would like ourselves to be supported”.

 

 

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Robert Lupițu este redactor-șef, specialist în relații internaționale, jurnalist în afaceri europene și NATO. Robert este laureat al concursului ”Reporter și Blogger European” la categoria Editorial și co-autor al volumelor ”România transatlantică” și ”100 de pași pentru o cetățenie europeană activă”. Face parte din Global Shapers Community, o inițiativă World Economic Forum, și este Young Strategic Leader în cadrul inițiativelor The Aspen Institute. Din 2019, Robert este membru al programului #TT27 Leadership Academy organizat de European Political Strategy Center, think tank-ul Comisiei Europene.

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MEP Vasile Blaga: We cannot achieve the green economy goal without gas and nuclear energy as transitional fuels

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© Vasile Blaga / Facebook

MEP Vasile Blaga (PNL, EPP) argues that the goal of a green economy cannot be achieved without gas and nuclear energy as transition fuels. He also said it isimportant for Romania to support the European Commission’s proposal to include gas and nuclear energy on the list of transitional fuels.

According to the MEP, Romania, both through the voice of President Iohannis and Prime Minister Nicolae Ciucă, has taken a position in favour of the European Commission’s proposal to include gas and nuclear energy on the list of transitional fuels.

“The context of the war in Ukraine, however, has given rise to voices in the European Parliament but also in other quarters who argue that the inclusion of gas in the delegated act would directly support Russia and its gas exports,” he added.

“It is an interpretation that creates a causal chain between two elements that are only circumstantially connected. The fact that gas is still considered a transition fuel to green energy does not mean that there is no gas other than that imported from Russia. Basically, the conflict in Ukraine is being used as an opportunity to reject a balanced and moderate vision of the transition to green energy”, said the Romanian MEP for www.caleaeuropeana.ro.

“Some colleagues who already had a position contrary to that of the Commission saw the conflict in Ukraine as an opportunity to argue. It is categorically false. We cannot achieve the goal of a green economy without gas and nuclear energy as transitional fuels. In any case, it is in Romania’s direct interest to support the European Commission’s proposal”, concluded MEP Vasile Blaga.

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MEP Vasile Blaga: Ukraine and Moldova will be part of the European family

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© Vasile Blaga/Facebook

MEP Vasile Blaga (PNL, EPP) welcomes the fact that the Republic of Moldova and Ukraine have obtained the status of candidate states: “It represents the certainty that both will be members of the European Union, a huge step for the two candidate states, but also for the European Union.”

According to the MEP, the vote in the European Parliament and the decision in the Council say one thing: “the decisions are not symbolic gestures of consolation but certify that Ukraine and the Republic of Moldova will be part of the European family.”

He draws attention to the pro-Russian rhetoric that downplays the impact of these decisions: “To those who promote these ideas we say simply: the road of Ukraine and the Republic of Moldova is a one-way street. At the end of the road lies integration into the European Union. It is, of course, a road that will require sustained efforts on the part of both candidate countries, but also on the part of the EU institutions.”

“Romania has used all institutional means to ensure that the Republic of Moldova is not decoupled from Ukraine in this decision. It was vital that the two states were granted the status of candidates for EU membership as a package. This is an extraordinary outcome that is well worth mentioning”, he added.

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MEP Vasile Blaga supports a fair green transition for Romania: Gas and nuclear energy must be considered transitory

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© Vasile Blaga / Facebook

MEP Vasile Blaga (PNL, EPP) reaffirms his support for a fair green transition for Romania, in which gas and nuclear energy are accepted in order to achieve the objectives set by the European Ecological Pact.

The European Parliament hosted yesterday, 30 May, a public hearing whose guests were several experts who debated, together with members of the two committees ECON and ENVI, the inclusion of gas and nuclear energy in the taxonomy of the European Union. Many of the opinions expressed push the debate towards a rejection of the European Commission’s proposal of March whereby nuclear energy and gas are considered, under certain conditions, green.

I reaffirm my support for the version proposed by the European Commission. There are many reasons why gas and nuclear energy should be considered transitional in order to achieve the objectives set by the European Green Pact. One of the reasons, and perhaps the most important one, relates to the realities on the ground in each Member State. France has a significant share of nuclear power, just as Germany is heavily dependent on gas. The decisions that the European Union needs to implement in order to achieve the objectives – already set and agreed by all Member States – need to be balanced first and foremost”, EPP MEP Vasile Blaga told European Way.

“Countries like Romania or Poland need a realistic transition towards the targets set by the Green Pact. Cohesion and solidarity in the European Union means that each Member State must take into account the other and, as a whole, decisions must not ignore any reality, be it further West or further East”, added the EPP MEP.

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