EU competition chief Margrethe Vestager Thursday questioned Gazprom’s strategy to limit gas supplies at a time of increased demand. The EU is conducting a preliminary investigation into anti-competitive behavior in the sector.

“It is indeed thought-provoking that a company, in view of increasing demand, limits supply,” Vestager told reporters. “That is quite rare behavior in the marketplace,” she said.

In October, Poland urged the Commission to open an antitrust probe of Gazprom, with Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki telling fellow EU leaders an investigation would “sober up Gazprom” and scare it into making more gas available.

Brussels then said it would collect evidence of possible anti-competitive behavior by the bloc’s major natural gas suppliers.

Energy-price increases are “very high priority” for the EU as “every household in Europe [is seeing] their energy bills go up,” Vestager said.

“We have sent questionnaires to a number of energy suppliers in this field. We have got a lot of responses, but we are still waiting for responses, among others, from Gazprom,” she said, adding she was “eagerly awaiting the information … to move on with our analysis.” 

Gazprom said it has submitted some information to the Commission. “We are in contact with the European Commission. Some of the information has already been provided,” a company spokesperson said.

Ukraine’s national gas company Naftogaz in December filed a complaint with the Commission alleging anti-competitive activity by Gazprom.

Russian President Vladimir Putin in December blamed the high gas prices on a mix of profit-hungry traders and EU rules. He said European traders are reselling Russian gas bought under cheap long-term contracts for windfall profits.

International Energy Agency head Fatih Birol on Wednesday said the tightness in the European gas market was likely due to Russia’s behavior, which coincided with “heightened geopolitical tensions over Ukraine.”

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Simon Van Dorpe

www.politico.eu

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