Economy & Politics

Billions in fine imposed on Gazprom in Poland

The Gazprom pipeline Photo: dpa / Bernd Wüstneck

Polish competition watchdogs impose a billion-dollar fine on Gazprom. Other companies are also asked to pay.

Warsaw – Poland’s competition watchdogs fined the Russian energy company Gazprom for the controversial Nord Stream 2 pipeline in the Baltic Sea. Gazprom should pay a record fine of 29 billion zlotys (the equivalent of around 6.45 billion euros), the Polish Authority for Competition and Consumer Protection (Uokik) announced on Wednesday.

Five other companies involved in the pipeline project are also expected to pay 52 million euros – including the German companies Uniper and Wintershall. The British-Dutch Shell group, the French group Engie and OMV from Austria are also affected.

Gazprom’s share price fell 1.4 percent after the penalty was announced. The group announced that it would take action against the Polish decision. Above all, the high sum is “unprecedented”.

Project controversial internationally

Uokik had already warned in 2016 that the antitrust watchdog believed that Nord Stream 2 could affect competition and refused to give the project company its consent. In 2018 the Polish competition authority initiated antitrust proceedings.

Nord Stream 2 is intended to significantly increase the potential for Russian gas deliveries to Germany, but it is internationally controversial. Critics fear that the pipeline could weaken the strategic and economic importance of alternative pipelines and traditional transit countries – including Poland as well as Ukraine. The government in Warsaw was therefore against the new pipeline from the start, as were the governments of Ukraine and the Baltic states.

EU competition commissioner Margrethe Vestager said in Brussels that her authority was not involved in the Polish decision. Vestager also indicated that she also considers the fine to be comparatively high. This is well above the average penalty range of four to six percent of group sales.

Additional discussions about poison attack

Construction of the 1230-kilometer gas pipeline is currently on hold because the companies involved are threatened with US sanctions. US President Donald Trump is one of the vehement critics. He accuses Germany of making itself dependent on Russian gas. Proponents of the pipeline, on the other hand, argue that it increases energy security in Europe and ensures low energy prices, even compared to the more expensive liquid gas from the USA.

The poison attack on Russian opposition politician Alexej Navalny recently sparked additional discussions about the pipeline. Poland’s Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said last Thursday that the case of the poisoned Kremlin critic could not be viewed separately from the pipeline project.

The Russian ambassador to Germany, Sergei Netschajew, expressed himself in the “Neue Osnabrücker Zeitung” (Thursday edition) convinced that the pipeline would be completed. It was about “an international economic project that corresponds to the interests of Germany and other European countries,” he emphasized. Nechayev accused the USA of exerting “ruthless pressure” out of self-interest.

The German AfD called on the federal government to hold on to the project. This is important “for our energy security and for more international understanding,” said parliamentary group vice-president Leif-Erik Holm. He criticized the fact that the other parliamentary groups did not support an AfD initiative in the Bundestag economic committee to commit to Nord Stream 2.


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