The European Union is gathering information in connection with the behavior of the Russian gas conglomerate Gazprom, which in 2021 sharply reduced gas supplies to its key sales market.
“The behavior of the Russian gas monopoly, which accounts for more than a third of all gas consumed by the European Union, raises questions,” said European Commissioner for Competition Margrethe Vestager.
"It is indeed thought-provoking that a company, in view of increasing demand, limits supply. This is quite rare behavior in the market," she said at a press conference in Brussels.
The situation with gas prices, which have soared almost 10 times over the past year, exceeding $ 2200 per thousand cubic meters at the moment, is a "very high priority" for the European authorities, since "every European has felt how energy bills are increasing," Vestager said.
As part of the investigation launched at the request of Poland, the European Commission requested information from a number of suppliers and continues to wait for answers from Gazprom, the European Commissioner said.
Gazprom’s press service said that it was in contact with Brussels and had already sent some of the necessary information.
Gazprom stopped selling gas to the EU on the spot market and , in August, decided to deliver gas only on long-term contracts. This came just days after a Düsseldorf court refused to exempt the Nord Stream 2 pipeline from the norms of the EU third energy package, which prohibit one company from being both a gas supplier and a pipeline owner.
By the end of 2021 and in January 2022, Gazprom's supplies dropped sharply. In the first days of the new year, the company was delivering to the EU only 54 million cubic meters per day - half as much as on the same dates a year earlier.
Due to reduced supplies, storage facilities in Germany and Austria were depleted. At the beginning of 2022 there was less gas in them than at the end of the heating seasons of the last five years.
"There are significant elements of shortage in the European gas market due to Russia's actions," said the head of the International Energy Agency, Fatih Birol.
"The current low supply of Russian gas to Europe coincides with heightened geopolitical tensions around Ukraine. Russia could increase supplies to Europe by at least a third - this is the main thing," he added.
Russian President Vladimir Putin during a large press conference on December 21 said that the reduction in Russian supplies is due to a lack of demand from European consumers. "What is there to supply if there are no purchase orders?" wondered Putin.
A week later, at a meeting on gas issues, he said that Russia would increase gas supplies as soon as the EU approves the Nord Stream 2 pipeline.