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”.
European Committee of the Regions, local authorities from Alba Iulia and Calea Europeană organise a local dialogue on digitalization and smart city (LIVE, February 20, 11:00)
European Committee of the Regions (CoR), Romanian National Delegation to CoR and CaleaEuropeană.ro organise, with the support of Alba County Council and Alba Iulia City Hall, and in partnership with the European Parliament Office in Romania, a local event designed as a platform of dialogue between local and regional authorities and citizens and focused on a key subject both for local and regional development and for the EU’s capacity to innovate and reduce development gaps through technology and digitalisation.
The event, entitled ”New technologies and digitalisation: Connectivity and smart city opportunities” takes place on Wednesday 20 of February, at the Principia Museum in Alba Iulia, starting at 11:00. The event will be broadcast live on CaleaEuropeană.ro.
In dialogue with citizens will engage Robert Negoiță, President of the Romanian National Delegation to the European Committee of the Regions (PES, RO); Ion Dumitrel, President of the Alba County Council, alternate member of the Romanian National Delegation to the European Committee of the Regions (EPP, RO); Mircea Hava, Mayor of Alba Iulia; and Nicolaie Moldovan, City Manager of Alba Iulia.
The debate is part of CoR’s ”Future of Europe” new initiative and aims to pave the way for the CoR’s 8th European Summit of Regions and Cities, scheduled for 14-15 of March 2019, in Bucharest, ahead of the European Council Summit in Sibiu on 9 of May 2019 and during Romania’s EU Council Presidency. This local dialogue subscribes also to the awareness campaign for the European elections from 23-26 of May 2019 (www.thistimeimvoting.eu), at the 40th anniversary since the first European Parliament elections.
This local dialogue will be held after the #SOTREG 2018, State of the Union: the view of Regions and Cities address, a speech held on October 9th by the President of the European Committee of the Regions Karl-Heinz Lambertz within the European Week of Regions and Cities frame, which has also marked the approval of CoR opinion on the Future of Europe, entitled „Reflecting on Europe: the voice of local and regional authorities to rebuild trust in the European Union”.
”Future of Europe” campaign in a nutshell
In 2016 the President of the European Council, Donald Tusk, asked the European Committee of the Regions (CoR) – as the voice of cities and regions – to submit its recommendations on the future of Europe. Subsequently, the CoR launched its “Reflecting on Europe” campaign whereby members held local events with citizens in their regions and cities to hear their views. Now, the opinion and speech mentioned above form the basis of the CoR’s efforts to contribute to the debate on the ”Future of Europe” ahead of the meeting of the EU leaders in Sibiu on 9 May and the European elections on 23-26 May 2019.
The ”Future of Europe” campaign is an initiative of the European Committee of the Regions (CoR) providing a platform for regions, cities and their citizens’ engagement in the debate on the future of Europe.
Over 40.000 citizens in more than 180 local debates organised across Europe already shared their views, concerns and ideas. The CoR is committed to ensuring that the voice of regional and local authorities and their citizens is heard within the EU, in an effort to make the European project more transparent and democratic and develop new forms of participative democracy.
The European Committee of the Regions invite Romanian citizens to share their view on the future of Europe (Fill the survey by clicking the image below)
In the context of the “Reflecting on Europe” initiative, the European Committee of the Regions launched a survey in 2016 on the main issues that people identify in the city or the region they live in. So far, More than 22.000 European citizens have responded to the survey, while more than 1.000 are from Romania.
At both European Union and Romanian level, unemployment, youth policies and mobility and public transport are considered the three main issues at local and regional level.
In Romania, the three mentioned problems have been classified by citizens as followed: 27% of them consider that mobility and public transportation is the main problem at local and regional level, while for 24% the main challenge is represented by youth policies and also, 23% see unemployment as the main issue.
Romanians rely on the European Union and on a local engagement to building the Future of Europe
Asked about the political level they most rely on, Romanian citizens grant a 82% trust rate to the European Union (60%) and to the local level (22%) to identify solutions and to provide them with security and prosperity. In this context, public perception itself favors dialogue based on local engagement and discussion on the European themes for defining the Future of Europe.
CaleaEuropeana.ro became member of OpenEUDebate, a European network that will be launched in Madrid by academic institutions and experts in EU politics
CaleaEuropeana.ro became member of OpenEUDebate, a Jean Monnet network of academic institutions (Universidad Autonoma de Madrid, Spain; the National University of Political and Administrative Studies – SNSPA, Romania;, Institut d’études européennes de l’Université libre de Bruxelles, Belgium; The Vrije Universiteit Brussel, Belgium and Agenda Pública, Spain), practitioners and experts in EU politics and policies that marks its lauch in Madrid by organizing debates on the future of Europe, on 21-22 January, in the context of the next Elections to the European Parliament, that are expected to be held in 23-26 May 2019.
The upcoming May 2019 EU elections will determine to a great extent the direction of the European project. The struggle for the soul of Europe is not only between nationalists and pro-Europeans, but also between different European projects with different public policy proposals on issues such as climate change, inequality or migration.
Rather than an abstract debate on Europe per se, citizens need to hear and engage in a conversation on this set of public policy proposals in order to have a meaningful vote.
Tackling issues of EU citizens’ common concerns requires an open public debate, the first round of which, between Spanish MPs and MEPs, will take place on Monday, 21st January 2019, from 19:00 – 21.00 h.
The venue of the event is the office of the European Parliament in Madrid (Paseo de la Castellana 46), and the debate will be livestreamed in Spanish and English.
The event launches the public activities of the Jean Monnet network OpenEUdebate, which will put EU expertise at the service of journalists, civil society and political actors to improve public debates about Europe. OpenEUDebate is not yet another EU discussion outlet from the “Brussels bubble”.
It follows a bottom-up approach to match EU’s policies with politics at the national level. OpenEUDebate will launch an online platform that will connect the debate in the EU institutions and transnational civil society platforms with national publics.
The event on Monday, 21st January, from 19:00 – 21.00 h features a keynote speech by former EU Commissioner Laaszlo Andor on the challenges of the social union and a Eurozone unemployment benefit scheme, and a debate on the future of Europe with MP Melisa Rodríguez (Ciudadanos, ALDE), MEPs Jonás Fernández (Progressive Alliance of Socialists & Democrats, PSOE) and Ernest Urtasun (European Greens/European Free Alliance, Catalunya en Comú), and a representative of Partido Popular (European People’s Party). Journalist Claudi Pérez (El País) will moderate the debate. The livestreaming will be available in Spanish and English.
EPP MEP Ramona Mănescu: “By coordinating the Council successfully, Romania can leave a strong imprint on European policies and the lives of the 500 million European citizens”
“By coordinating the Council successfully, Romania can leave a strong imprint on European policies and the lives of the 500 million European citizens,” wrote MEP Ramona Mănescu in a post on the official Facebook page following her participation the debate on the ”Future of Romania”, a debate organized by the Grand National Lodge in Romania.
To facilitate the clarification of issues concerning major issues that concern Romania today, the Grand National Lodge in Romania organizes a series of conferences and debates, in a broad framework, with the involvement of civil society and stakeholders.
The first conference took place in Bucharest, a conference attended by MEP Ramona Mănescu on January 15, 2019.
While the debate was devoted to the importance of taking over the Presidency of the EU Council, the MEP stressed that “Romania has the most important maturity exam in the last 12 years! For six months now, Romania has a very complex task – technically and politically. Moreover, we must do this while the eyes of the whole of Europe are fixed on us. For the first time since joining the EU, we have to show what we can do for Europe. We have to demonstrate the capacity to handle large dossiers that far outweigh the country’s borders. “
“By coordinating the Council successfully, Romania can leave a strong mark on European policies and the lives of the 500 million European citizens. It’s a moment of great prestige! And it’s happening for the first time since joining the EU! “added Ramona Mănescu.
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