Pipeline monopoly approved

BRUSSELS – The European Commission gave conditional approval to Greece and Italy yesterday to limit access to a gas pipeline connecting their countries largely to the two companies that are building it for 25 years. The European Union executive body said the move would create more competition on the Italian gas market by allowing the pipeline’s two builders – Italy’s Edison and DEPA of Greece – preferred access to the infrastructure. EU rules normally require access to pipelines to be granted equally to all potential users. The Commission said this exception would allow Edison to more effectively compete with ENI, the dominant player on the Italian market, and would bring DEPA into the Italian market for the first time. It said some access would also be given to third parties during that 25-year period. But Brussels put some conditions on its approval. The countries must provide more information on where the gas transported in the pipeline is to come from. If it orginates from areas other than Russia, Algeria and Norway – the bloc’s main gas suppliers – the justification for the exception will be stronger, a Commission spokesman said. «There is every possibility that this pipeline will bring gas into the EU directly from ‘non-traditional suppliers,’» the Commission said in a statement. «This is the express aim of the pipeline developers.» Bringing gas in from countries such as Azerbaijan or Egypt would increase the security of EU gas supplies, a key goal of the 27-nation bloc’s developing energy policy.