Vladimir Putin’s abusive stranglehold over European gas supplies has been laid bare by explosive EU documents, exposing deliberate violations of EU law and a pattern of political bullying over almost a decade.
The longest investigation in EU history found that the Kremlin-controlled energy giant Gazprom has used its enormous power to pressure vulnerable states in Eastern Europe, and to fragment the EU’s unified energy market with coercive pricing policies.
The report suggests that Germany has been enjoying a sweetheart deal with Gazprom, gaining a competitive advantage in gas costs at the expense of fellow EU economies and leaving front line states at the mercy of Moscow’s strong-arm tactics.
Hundreds of pages leaked from the European Commission paint an extraordinary picture of predatory behaviour, with Gazprom acting as an enforcement arm of Russian foreign policy. Bulgaria was treated almost like a colony, while Poland was forced to pay exorbitant prices for imported flows of pipeline gas from Siberia.
The stash of files slipped to Euro-MPs – in a very rare breach of secrecy rules – amount a political bombshell. It is highly embarrassing for the EU’s exalted competition directorate. The papers imply that Brussels learned the full truth but is nevertheless turning a blind eye as it prepares to reach a cosy understanding with Moscow, disregarding fundamental principles of EU law.
“This is a very big deal. What the documents show is that there was systematic abuse of dominant position, and that it was clearly done for political purposes,” said professor Alan Riley, an expert on EU energy law at the Atlantic Council.
“Gazprom was splitting the European energy market at every point. And now the Commission is minded to do a deal that treats the East Europeans as if they were not member states at all,” he said.
The political context is inflammatory. The competition commissioner, Margrethe Vestager, has pursued an aggressive and controversial campaign against US technology companies such as Google and Apple, openly vilifying the Silicon Valley leaders as a threat to European democracy.