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Bulgaria backs proposed EU antimonopoly settlement with Gazprom

Bulgaria backs proposed EU antimonopoly settlement with Gazprom Denys Prykhodov/

SOFIA (Bulgaria), May 3 (SeeNews) - Bulgaria's caretaker government said on Wednesday it approved the position of the European Commission on a possible deal with Gazprom to settle the antitrust dispute on the Russian gas giant's practices in Central and Eastern Europe.

Gazprom's commitments are a step in the direction of eliminating abuse of dominant market position but they need further clarification, the caretaker government said in a statement following a weekly meeting.

"The interested Bulgarian companies, including the Bulgarian Energy Holding, Bulgargaz and Bulgartransgaz, are in constant contact with the European Commission for the purpose of receiving further information," the government said. "At present, the commitments don't offer enough guarantees for implementing the clauses for setting of gas prices on market basis."

The government also said it needs additional information about the option that could allow Gazprom to change the point of delivering gas to the Bulgarian border.

"With regard to the security of gas supplies, it is important for Bulgaria that changes to the delivery points be discussed only after a thorough analysis as to whether guarantees exist regarding the volumes and routes of gas supplies as well as the transit fees," the government said. It added that  ensuring direct gas supplies across the Black Sea to Bulgaria and Southeast European countries would contribute to the political and economic stability of the region.

Gazprom is the dominant gas supplier to a number of Central and Eastern European countries, including Bulgaria. The Balkan country imports almost all the gas it needs from Russia via a single pipeline which crosses Ukraine, Moldova and Romania.

In April 2015, the Commission sent a statement of objections expressing its preliminary view that Gazprom had been breaking EU antitrust rules by pursuing an overall strategy to partition Central and Eastern European gas markets.

In March 2017, the European Commission invited comments from all interested parties on the commitments submitted by Gazprom, noting that they would enable cross-border gas flows at competitive prices and help to better integrate gas markets in the region.

Gazprom's commitments ensure that restrictions to re-sell gas cross-border are removed once and for all and facilitate such cross-border flow of gas in Central and Eastern European gas markets; gas prices in Central and Eastern Europe reflect competitive price benchmarks; and Gazprom cannot act on any advantages concerning gas infrastructure, which it obtained from customers by having leveraged its market position in gas supply, the Commission said back then.