European Commission promises to act on Czech objection to German gas transit fee

The European Commission has responded positively to Czechia’s call for the abolition of the fee that Germany charges for the transit of natural gas through its territory. Following Thursday’s meeting of energy ministers in Brussels the Commission said it would look into the matter and consider possible action.

Jozef Síkela | Photo: Office of Czech Government

Czech Industry Minister Jozef Síkela on Monday filed a protest against the German gas transit fee on behalf of his own country but also Austria, Slovakia, Hungary and Poland, which hold a similar position.

According to Sikela, the introduction of unilateral fees for gas transit does not correspond to the EU solidarity agreements, which state that energy security is a common interest and unilateral fees undermine market integration and cross-border flows. He said the Commission had accepted his arguments.

“After hearing our objections, the Commission stated that it was likely that there had been a violation of European law and promised to take up the matter with the parties concerned.”

The European Commission will now discuss the matter with Germany. The Czech minister said he hoped that an agreement could be reached without penalties for Berlin, which has defended its position. Sven Giegold, State Secretary of the German Ministry of Economic Affairs said Germany is taking the matter seriously and is ready to negotiate.

"This fee is charged to everyone, especially German businesses and consumers. So it is not discriminatory. We would very much welcome a European solution to this problem."

The German fee, which is intended to cover the cost of storing gas in storage facilities, is 1.86 euros per megawatt-hour for all gas exported from Germany.  According to the Czech Ministry of Industry, Italy and other countries are considering introducing a similar fee.

According to Czechia this may seriously undermine efforts to cut Europe’s dependency on Russian gas.

 Illustrative photo: Richenza,  Wikimedia Commons,  CC BY-SA 3.0

All five countries backing the complaint still receive piped gas from Russia. Minister Sikela pointed out that while between January and September of 2023 Russian gas imports to Czechia dropped to a mere 2 percent, thereafter they started climbing again. In November and December of last year they reached 26 and 58 percent respectively and in January of 2024 they rose to 60 percent.

The energy ministers also discussed the possible termination of the contract to transport Russian gas through Ukraine, which could happen at the end of this year, and would affect gas supplies in Central and Eastern Europe.

According to the Czech Ministry of Industry, the Czech and Slovak transmission systems are prepared for an outage, but he stressed the need to reinforce alternate routes and not have supplies burdened by unilateral levies which make it more difficult for some EU member states in this area to access gas imports from Western Europe.

Within the debate on weaning EU member states off their dependency on Russian oil supplies Minister Síkela said the Czech government was considering making it compulsory for distributors in the country to disclose the source of their gas supply to end consumers. A similar obligation for distributors will soon be introduced in neighbouring Austria.

Before the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Russian piped gas made up 40 per cent of the EU’s supply, a share that has since fallen to 8 per cent. However, shipborne deliveries of liquefied natural gas (LNG) from Russia have increased and some member states are still dependent on them.

Author: Daniela Lazarová | Sources: Český rozhlas , Česká televize
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