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Prime Minister sees Gazprom as investor in Lithuania's gas transmission grid

„Gazprom“
AFP/„Scanpix“ nuotr. / „Gazprom“
Šaltinis: BNS
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Prime Minister Andrius Kubilius said on Thursday that Russia's Gazprom, the supplier of natural gas to Lithuania, is an important strategic partner that will be invited to become a financial investor in the country's planned new gas transmission grid operator.

Kubilius says he believes that Lithuania and Gazprom will be able to hold constructive talks, with the European Commission's participation, on unbundling the ownership in the gas sector.

"I also handed him (Gazprom Vice-President Alexander Medvedev) a letter with proposals saying that we would see (Gazprom) as a financial investor in our transmission operator with no vote on decisions," Kubilius told the Žiniu Radijas (News Radio) radio station.

"Gazprom remains an important strategic partner. Also, it's only natural that Gazprom cares about (gas) transmission to the Kaliningrad region. I don't see anything wrong about it, because with (Gazprom) having no decisive vote and being only a financial investor, decisions would be taken by the Lithuanian state, which would have the decisive vote," he said.

Kubilius underlined that the end-of-2014 deadline for the implementation of the EU third energy package, under which Lithuania plans to break up gas transmission, distribution and supply assets of Lietuvos Dujos (Lithuanian Gas), cannot be changed.

"The system has to be reorganized in 2014 and we cannot make any exceptions, because we would violate the EU law. Secondly, it is very important for us to implement this directive as fast as possible, at least by the end of 2014, because we must have an operating liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminal by that time. (The terminal's) operations would be complicated unless we have separated the transmission system from all other operations and have made it possible to manage the transmission system as an independent and open infrastructure," he said.

Alexander Medvedev, who met with Kubilius in Vilnius last Tuesday, was quoted in the media as saying that Gazprom intends to supply gas to the planned LNG terminal in Klaipėda.

"If a gas tanker came today to the terminal in Klaipėda, Lithuania would pay 550 US dollars per 1,000 cubic meters of gas, which is 70 US dollars more than Lietuvos Dujos pays under the current contract, to say nothing about the new price that Achema will pay. We are ready to compete. But competition starts in the market, not in the transmission pipeline. We will seek to supply gas to the terminal if it is built," the business daily Verslo Žinios quoted him as saying.

Medvedev said that, in negotiations on the unbundling of Lietuvos Dujos, Gazprom will seek guarantees of safe gas transit to the Russian exclave Kaliningrad via the transmission pipelines in Lithuania.

"Taking into account possible changes in the conditions of gas supply to Kaliningrad during the implementation of the EU third energy package, we must ensure that the transit route is guaranteed. There are political, technological and, finally, force majeure issues that have to be taken into account. We will discuss this matter with the government," he told Verslo Žinios.

Gazprom's official said that the European Commission could have to be brought into the talks on the unbundling of gas assets. But first of all, the Russian gas giant wants its interests to be appreciated.

"We have experience of negotiating with Poland after the third package came into force. I can say that many issues can be resolved if there is mutual respect between the partners," he said.

Lithuanian Energy Minister Arvydas Sekmokas told the Delfi.lt online news site earlier this week that following the unbundling of Lietuvos Dujos, the Russian gas giant could own up to a third of shares in the transmission pipeline operator, but a final decision would be up to the European Commission.

Officials said earlier that the state would take control of the transmission grid, possibly jointly with a strategic investor, such as E.ON Ruhrgas. The government now looks inclined to seek a compromise in order to obtain lower gas prices.

Under the new Law on Natural Gas, Lietuvos Dujos, which is controlled by E. ON Ruhrgas and Gazprom, has until Mar. 31 to submit to the National Control Commission for Prices and Energy a plan for splitting off its natural gas transmission business into a separate company that will have to change owners in several years' time.

The government has set an October 2014 deadline for the unbundling of gas assets.

BNS
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