Britain’s exit from the European Union is a huge blow to European project with potentially devastating implications for its’ latest flagship policy – Energy Union. The United Kingdom has been one of the strongest proponents of EU energy market integration, liberalization, and diversification. By using the power of consorted action, Energy Union was intended to confront gas monopolies, such as Gazprom, in the fight against price discrimination and market distortions. As fallout from Brexit rattles Brussels, Kremlin-backed Gazprom is well positioned to seize the moment to recapture this lucrative market for Russian gas. This article takes a closer look at recent developments in European Union energy policy and examines opportunities for Gazprom to gain a stronger influence over downstream energy relations in the continent.
The State of the Energy Union was created by the European Commission in February 2015 on the following promises: diversification through embracing LNG exports from alternative suppliers, market integration by building gas interconnections among EU member states, and ownership unbundling of critical gas infrastructure. Despite member states’ pledge for unconditional support of this policy, public support for the Energy Union has been dismal. The controversial Nord Stream- 2 pipeline along with Gazprom’s recent acquisition of strategic gas storage facilities within the EU have raised eyebrows across Europe’s capitals. Delays in building critical gas transmission lines between northern and southern Europe further eroded public confidence in European Energy Union.
Yet, there have been some positive developments for this policy as a result of increasing competition and liberalization of the EU gas market. Eastern and central Europeans zealously embraced growing LNG exports from Qatar, Australia, and the United States. Preference for LNG over piped gas in Lithuania and Poland has already cost Gazprom billions in lost revenues from re-negotiating purchasing contracts.
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