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WTO court rules in favor of key principles of EU Third Energy Package

Moscow — A World Trade Organization court ruling published Friday confirmed the key principles of the EU's Third Energy Package are lawful, but concluded that some conditions, including access to the OPAL pipeline, are not in line with WTO norms.

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Russian state-owned gas producer and transporter Gazprom filed a complaint with the WTO about the legislation in April 2014, arguing Russian infrastructure was being treated unfairly. Since then, constraints on access to OPAL have been lifted, resulting in flows via Nord Stream increasing to full capacity of 155 million cu m/day. The decision is therefore not expected to be market moving.

The European Commission described the ruling as "an important positive outcome for the EU, as it secures the core elements of the Third Energy Package."

In a statement released Friday, it said the EU was cleared of claims of discrimination against Russian pipeline transport services, suppliers and Russian gas itself.

"The panel ruled in favor of the EU concerning the rules on 'unbundling', i.e. the requirement to separate energy supply and generation from the operation of transmission networks, as well as on liquefied natural gas (LNG) and on upstream pipeline networks," the statement said.

The commission said it will now analyze the issues that the WTO has not recognized as compatible with its norms.

Gazprom said in a statement that the ruling confirmed that three aspects of the Third Energy Package do not comply with WTO norms. These include special treatment for OPAL, and demands for certain certifications for foreign-owned gas transportation operators. It also said the WTO found that EU regulations that favor projects aimed at diversifying gas supply sources to the EU from countries other than Russia are not in line with WTO norms. One such is the Southern Gas Corridor bringing Caspian region gas to Europe.

"Gazprom has always said that the interests of gas suppliers need to be taken into account in the implementation of European energy policy, and it is therefore satisfied with the sections of the final report that cover these violations, and expects the EU to take the necessary actions to eliminate the violations identified by bringing its legislation into compliance with the report," the company said. --Rosemary Griffin, rosemary.griffin@spglobal.com

--Edited by Keiron Greenhalgh, newsdesk@spglobal.com