Brussels — Romania will push for a swift accord on applying EU market rules to offshore gas pipelines such as Russia's 55 Bcm/year Nord Stream 2 link to Germany during its EU presidency to end-June, according to its energy minister.
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The timing of any accord is critical as the current draft proposals would allow waivers for pipelines completed before the new rules enter into force.
Nord Stream 2 is planned online by the end of this year, and if the new rules are in force before then it may have to submit to transparent, non-discriminatory tariff regulation for the EU section of the pipeline.
"We would like our presidency to take significant steps [to move this file forward] in the time we have left," Romania's energy minister Anton Anton told the European Parliament's energy committee on Wednesday.
"We know the parliament is ready for talks," he said. "This...is now a hot topic" for national governments in the EU Council.
Romania has drafted a new compromise text based on the European Commission's November 2017 proposals to apply internal energy market rules, such as third-party access, unbundling and tariff regulation, to all offshore gas pipelines with non-EU countries.
These rules would capture existing EU links with North Africa and Russia, as well as potential future links in the East Mediterranean, and links with the UK after Brexit, for example.
Romania's draft allows waivers for up to 20 years, renewable, for pipelines completed before the rules enter into force.
It has dropped proposals from the previous EU presidency holder, Austria, to allow pipelines under construction when the rules enter into force -- such as Nord Stream 2 -- to be eligible for waivers.
Austria's biggest gas company, OMV, is an investor in Nord Stream 2, along with France's Engie, Germany's Uniper and Wintershall, and Anglo-Dutch Shell. The project company is 100% owned by Russia's Gazprom.
Romania hopes to broker a negotiating position in the council so that it can open informal talks with the parliament to agree the common text needed for the proposals to become binding, Anton said.
The parliament adopted its negotiating position in March, in which it backed the EC's proposals and called for any agreed waivers from the rules to be limited to five years.
The council, however, is still very divided on the proposals, and there is no legal deadline for it to agree a negotiating position.
The parliament will break in mid-April to prepare for elections in May, and so the Romanian presidency has a very short window to persuade the council to agree its position and conclude a deal with the parliament before then.
If there is no deal before the elections the debate will move to the second half of 2019 under the Finnish EU presidency.
Finland is one of the countries on Nord Stream 2's planned route across the Baltic Sea to Germany, and has already granted construction permits for it.
--Siobhan Hall, firstname.lastname@example.org
--Edited by James Leech, email@example.com