Russian gas upsets Europe

Russian gas upsets Europe

Elisa Maria Giannetto
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With its agreements with Russia, the Serbian government may have violated European laws on competition governing the gas market

Serbia has been placed under scrutiny by the European Department of Energy for alleged violation of the treaties relating to the energy sector, after signing the agreement for the supply of Russian gas. In an open letter, the EC secretary initiated a preliminary procedure to shed light on the issue. The main concern is the possible distortion to the market caused by the agreement, signed in 2012, between the Russian energy company Gazprom and its Serbian counterpart, an agreement that will last until 2021. Indeed the volume of gas from Moscow that reached Belgrade in 2016 grew by nearly 25%. But Serbia is not the only country to have benefited from Russian gas. According to figures provided by the Russia’s Gazprom, exports to all of South-East Europe rose last year. Italy put in a + 1.1% compared to 2015, reaching 24.7 billion cubic meters of gas. Bulgarian imports were up 2.1% to 3.18 billion cubic meters and Greece is close to a rise of 35% with a total of 2.68 billion cubic meters. Not to mention Romania, that imported a volume of Russian gas 8 times greater than the year previous, as well as Croatia and Macedonia. As Brussels has underlined, Serbia now has two months to respond and to provide further details on the matter. The country, led by Vucic, remains one of the key locations in the project for the construction of Gasprom’s South Stream gas pipeline, where preparatory work is announced as running to schedule. All the same Putin is concerned that the quarrel with Brussels may slow measures down. Overall Russia meets about a quarter of the natural gas needs of the European economy, the majority of which runs through the Soviet-era transit network in Ukraine, where lingering debt issues and the current ongoing conflict are threatening traditional energy routes. With attention turned east, to the west of Europe another country stands out for its growth in gas consumption, namely Spain, which in 2016 put in an increase of 2.1% over the previous year, with Algeria confirmed as its main supplier.