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EU Looking Into Complaints That Russia Is Pushing Up Gas Prices

European Energy Commissioner Kadri Simson (file photo)
European Energy Commissioner Kadri Simson (file photo)

The European Commission is looking into complaints that Gazprom is using its position as a major supplier to propel gas prices, the European Union's energy policy chief said.

The Russian supplier has been fulfilling its sales obligations under long-term contracts but is not adding more. That has drawn accusations by EU lawmakers that it is pushing up gas prices in Europe, which have surged to record highs.

"We are looking into this claim, together with Executive Vice President (Margrethe) Vestager, who is responsible for competition rules, because it is of course a very serious matter," European Energy Commissioner Kadri Simson told Reuters.

Gazprom and the Kremlin have repeatedly said Russia has been supplying its customers with gas in accordance with existing contracts.

Moscow is awaiting regulatory approval for its Nord Stream 2 pipeline to start pumping gas to Germany. Nord Stream 2 AG, a Switzerland-based company owned by a subsidiary of Gazprom, said in a statement on October 4 that it has begun filling the pipeline with gas.

Opponents of the controversial pipeline say Russia has applied pressure to try to speed up the project's approval by not supplying extra gas to Europe as prices have surged.

Brussels will next week publish a "toolbox" outlining countries' options to respond to energy price spikes, such as consumer subsidies and energy tax breaks. Some governments have already rolled out such measures.

Countries including Spain, France, and Poland have said the price crunch should be met with a coordinated EU response, such as reforms to EU energy market regulations, or common gas purchasing by member states.

Simson said a faster transition to green energy would be the most effective way to protect Europe against fuel price spikes.

The EU is preparing to implement a raft of measures to cut emissions faster this decade, including taxes on polluting fuels, a new carbon market for buildings and transport, and a multibillion-euro fund to help low-income consumers invest in green options.

Russian President Vladimir Putin told a government meeting on October 5 that green energy and low investment in the extraction industries were to blame for what he said were "hysteria and some confusion" in Europe's energy market.

"Some people are speculating on climate change issues, some people are underestimating some things, some are starting to cut back on investments in the extractive industries. There needs to be a smooth transition" to green energy, he said.

He also called for the sustainable development of the oil, gas, and coal sectors and said it was important that this was not neglected.

With reporting by Reuters

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