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Poland, Ukraine Hail EU Court Ruling That Curbs Gazprom's Nord Stream Pipeline Access

Workers are seen at the construction site of the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline, near the Russian town of Kingisepp.
Workers are seen at the construction site of the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline, near the Russian town of Kingisepp.

Gazprom says it is analyzing the legal and commercial consequences of a September 10 court ruling that reduced gas flows via the Opal pipeline, which connects Germany with the Russian state-owned gas company's Nord Stream pipeline, Reuters reports.

The ruling by the EU's top court in Luxembourg reinstated curbs on gas flows through Opal, half-owned by Gazprom, to 35 percent of the capacity of Germany's onshore pipeline extension of Nord Stream 1.

The EU General Court's ruling essentially annulled a European Commission (EC) decision from 2016.

It concluded that the EC had not assessed the impact on Poland's gas-supply security, and therefore breached the EU's "energy solidarity principle" by adopting the decision.

Ukraine and Poland welcomed the decision as a victory that reduces the chances of a gas crisis, particularly in Kyiv, and one that will offer Ukraine leverage in future energy talks with Russia.

"The ruling keeps Poland's and Ukraine's energy security at a high level," said Polish Energy Minister Krzysztof Tchorzewski, whose country challenged the EU's 2016 decision.

Ukraine's state-run Naftogaz oil and gas company called the ruling "a pleasant surprise."

Naftogaz's executive director, Yuriy Vitrenko, said on social media, "I hope that all this is a sign of gradual change in Europe's attitude to Gazprom and Russia's use of gas as an instrument of political influence."

Representatives of the EU, Ukraine, and Russia are scheduled for talks in Brussels on September 19 to discuss the possible extension of Kyiv's gas-transit contract with Russia, which expires on January 1.

They come as Gazprom is pushing to complete the Nord Stream 2 pipeline project by spring 2020, after which it may no longer need Ukraine's pipelines for transit.

Moscow meets a third of Europe's gas needs, much of which flows through Ukraine's Soviet-era pipelines. Fourteen countries receive more than 50 percent of their gas from Russia.

Gazprom had been seeking full access to the Opal pipeline and got 80 percent of its available capacity after the 2016 EC decision.

The September 10 ruling will reduce Gazprom's Nord Stream flows by 12.4 billion cubic meters a year, said PGNiG, Poland's state-run oil and gas company, the country's largest.

The ruling also "improves Ukraine's negotiating position with Russia," PGNiG CEO Piotr Wozniak told Bloomberg.

The EC has two months and 10 days to appeal the court's ruling.

With reporting by Reuters and Bloomberg
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