The probe had not been opened, Kęstutis Jauniškis told BNS. He confirmed, however, that the Commission had sent a request for more information about the transposition of the European Union’s (EU) legislative acts into Lithuania’s national legislation. According to him, Lithuania’s authorities would have ten weeks to answer the Commission’s questions.
“The Commission has not opened the probe, it’s just an enquiry, a pilot, which is a standard procedure so as to check the information available and to get further information. Many of such pilots are being received in all areas each year and it does not mean that a probe will be opened. Achema has submitted an enquiry hence the Commission has launched a standard procedure for collecting more information,” Jauniškis said.
Kęstutis Skiudas, an adviser to prime minister, and Ona Kostinaitė-Grinkevičienė, Lithuania’s energy attaché to the EU, both told BNS that they did not know about the probe.
“The Commission’s Directorate General for Energy has replied that it does not comment on such probes,” Giedrius Siudikas, head of the press office at the Commission’s Representation in Lithuania, told BNS.
The Commission is reportedly studying now whether to open the probe since such complaints are usually examined in two stages. As an example, the formal investigation into the activities of Russia’s Gazprom in Central and Eastern Europe was launched after more than a year after Lithuania and other countries addressed the Commission on this issue and the authorities carried out unannounced searches at EU companies related with Gazprom.
News portal eversus.lt reported on Thursday that the European Commission (EC) opened a probe into Lithuania’s Law on LNG Terminal, which obliges all suppliers of natural gas to buy 25 percent of their gas volumes from the future LNG facility, in response to a complaint from fertilizer manufacturer Achema, which is Lithuania’s top gas consumer.
The Energy Ministry had already been notified about the probe, and businesses hoped to be successful in eliminating this obligation with Brussels’ help by the beginning of 2015, the news portal said.
The Commission reportedly notified the Energy Ministry about the probe and asked the ministry to provide answers to eight questions within ten weeks. Most of those questions deal with the so-called 25-percent rule, under which gas suppliers will have to buy 25 percent of required gas volumes from the LNG terminal, another 25 percent from Russia’s Gazprom, currently Lithuania’s sole gas supplier, and the remaining 50 percent from any chosen source, between 2015 and 2024.
“The LNG terminal’s law obliges Achema to “invest” 200 million litas (EUR 57.97m) in the LNG terminal’s project, being developed by Klaipėdos Nafta (Klaipėda Oil), without any compensation between 2013 and 2014. Later all users will have to buy 25 percent of their gas volumes from the LNG terminal. This legal regulation obviously goes against the Constitution, which bans expropriation of private funds without paying due compensation,” the portal quoted Rytis Budrius, chief lawyer at Achema, as saying.
According to him, private funds, which would be expropriated without any compensation, would actually be granted to Klaipėdos Nafta. However, the EU Treaties prohibited the provision of such support to economic entities since it restricted competition and the consumers’ possibility to choose the cheapest gas freely. Hence if established that the state has violated this ban, it will have to pay this support back to all taxpayers and users affected will be entitled to demand damages from Klaipėdos Nafta.
Starting from 2013, the compensation for the construction of the LNG terminal will be included in the gas transmission tariff and Klaipėdos Nafta should obtain 114.1 million litas per year from this source. If the Commission finds that the LNG law does not comply with EU legislation, Klaipėdos Nafta may have to pay this money back to consumers.