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ECJ limits Gazprom's use of crucial gas link after objections from Latvia, Lithuania and Poland.

RIGA, Sept 11 (LETA--FINANCIAL TIMES) - The EU's top court has delivered a blow to Gazprom by overturning an EU decision allowing the Russian gas giant to boost deliveries to Europe via the Opal pipeline, the Financial Times reports.

Poland, Lithuania and Latvia had challenged the European Commission's 2016 decision to allow Gazprom to send more gas via Opal, which connects Russia's Nordstream pipeline to Germany, arguing that the decision "violated the principles of the European Union by not examining its impact on Poland's energy security".

On Tuesday, the European Court of Justice found in favor of the three countries, arguing that the Commission's 2016 decision had been taken "in breach of the principle of energy solidarity".

Polish officials were quick to welcome the ruling, which comes as Warsaw battles to prevent the construction of Nordstream II, a pipeline that would allow Russia to double the amount of gas it sends to Germany, bypassing Poland and Ukraine.

"It has been evident since its issue in 2016 that the EU Decision concerning the OPAL pipeline is in conflict with EU law" said Piotr Wozniak, chief executive of PGNiG, Poland's state-controlled oil and gas group.

"EU energy legislation is designed to prevent the monopolisation of access to gas pipelines within the Community. We are glad that the Court of Justice of the European Union has clearly affirmed that EU legislation applies equally to all, including Gazprom."

Gazprom was originally only allowed to use 50 per cent of Opal's capacity, due to EU rules designed to prevent a single group from monopolizing crucial energy infrastructure. However, the Commission removed that limit in 2016, triggered a complaint from Poland, Lithuania and Latvia.

Maciej Wozniak, PGNiG's deputy chief executive, said the ECJ's ruling would force Gazprom to send higher volumes to Europe via alternative pipelines in Ukraine, which he said would make it harder for Russia to use gas deliveries to put pressure on Kiev.

"As Gazprom can no longer enjoy its monopolistic position on the OPAL pipeline, it will not be able to terminate transit of gas to Europe via Ukraine, at least in the coming months. The Court's judgment may save Ukraine and Europe from the market turbulence like that of January and February 2009," he said.

The European Commission has two months to decide whether or not to appeal against the decision.

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Geographic Code:4EXRU
Date:Sep 11, 2019
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