UPDATE: Poland Extends Investigation of Nord Stream 2 JV
Poland's Office of Competition and Consumer Protection (UOKiK) announced on February 4 that it is extending the deadline of its review of the Nord Stream 2 joint venture by four months.
The competition agency is reviewing the creation of the six-party joint venture involved in the Nord Stream 2 pipeline extension project following a request to do so in December 2015. The six parties involved are Gazprom, E.On, Engie, BASF, OMV, and Shell.
In a statement released on February 4, the agency said it needed extra time to carefully examine the effects of the joint venture on the Polish market. The UOKiK points to the fact that the Nord Stream expansion will lead to a significant increase in transmission capacity for Gazprom in Europe, which could significantly strengthen its market position.
"A careful examination of the impact of the transaction on the Polish gas supply market at senior level is necessary, including the opinions of participants and the regulator of the gas market," the statement read. "This will mark the exact position of Gazprom and its possible behavior in relation to others."
Given the complexity of the examination, the agency said, it was necessary to prolong the examination proceedings by four months.
The investigation is usual under Polish law, according to UOKiK.
"According to applicable law, a transaction requires notification to the competition authority in cases where the combined turnover of the participating undertakings in the year preceding the notification exceeded €1bn worldwide or €50mn in Poland," a spokesperson told Natural Gas Europe.
The extension of the investigation is also permissible and usual in cases of particular complexity, according to UOKiK.
"The amended act on competition and consumer protection, which entered into force on 18 January 2015, introduced a two-stage procedure for examination of concentration cases," the agency says. "The first stage should be concluded within one month, whereas the proceedings may be extended by further four months in matters: of particular complexity; in which there are grounds to suspect a significant impediment to competition on the market as a result of the concentration; or requiring a market study."
Poland has previously voiced reservations about the Nord Stream 2 project. In September 2015, Poland's president, Andrzej Duda, alleged that the project was contrary to the unity aims supposed to be inherent in the European Union. In November 2015, Poland was one of 10 EU member states who forwarded a letter to the European Commission objecting to the Nord Stream 2 project.
Poland provides transit services to the 33bn m³/yr Yamal-Europe pipeline which reached capacity in 2006 and it saw itself as the likely host country for further expansion of that pipeline. In the event, Gazprom decided to move subsequent stages offshore, beginning with the already operational Nord Stream 1.
As well as Russian gas, Poland also imports from Norway and is now commissioning an LNG import terminal which it hopes to bring online in the first half of this year. Attempts at increasing domestic gas production through hydraulic fracturing have so far failed.
Note: This article, which was previously published on February 4, has been updated to included further comment and background on Polish law from UOKiK.