EU Targets Polish Gas Storage Rules
Poland is to receive two warnings from the European Commission (EC), including one regarding what many foreign companies see as its unfair rules relating to gas storage obligations. The other relates to excise duty exemptions for large coal and gas users.
The EC decided March 8 to send letters of formal notice to Poland on both counts. This is the first of three stages of the EU's infringement procedure, the last being a referral to the European Court of Justice (ECJ).
On gas storage, the EC says Poland is failing to comply with the requirements of EU regulation 2017/1938 governing the security of gas supplies. Brussels says that Polish law imposes a gas storage obligation on firms importing gas to Poland: “The conditions to fulfil the obligation by storing gas abroad in practice make such storage less attractive and more cumbersome than storing in Poland.”
It judges the Polish rules are incompatible with EU measures designed to prevent potential supply disruption. Poland now has two months to respond, or risks receiving an EC “reasoned opinion” – the second stage of the infringement procedure.
The European Federation of Energy Traders wrote a letter to Polish and EU authorities almost exactly a year ago complaining of the anti-competitive nature of the government's plan to change the storage rules and saying it would push up gas prices.
Poland will also get an EC letter of formal notice over excise duty exemptions relating to coal products and gas consumed by large industries. EU council directive 2003/96 requires businesses benefiting from such exemptions to introduce standards of energy efficiency that exceed what is required by binding EU instruments, such as the EU Emissions Trading System. The EC though says Polish law does not require this and so – like its storage rules -- could be anti-competitive. Warsaw has two months to respond, or else risk a second-stage warning. The complaints to Poland were just two of 45 infringement decisions announced March 8 by the EC sent to most of the 28 EU member states, including 19 letters of formal notice, 22 reasoned opinions, and four referrals to the ECJ.
Polish prime minister Mateusz Morawiecki was in Brussels March 8 for a meeting with EC president Jean-Claude Juncker, at which both were expected mainly to discuss the EC's complaint in December 2017 that undue pressure is exerted by Poland's government on its judiciary. Morawiecki, a lawyer and former banker, took over as PM on December 11 from Beata Szydlo, in whose conservative Law and Justice party-led government he had been finance minister.