Â Rome/Brussels: The European Commission said yesterday it was closely following Russian gas monopoly Gazprom’s cooperation deal with Algeria’s Sonatrach after Italy said it could lead to higher gas prices in Europe.Earlier this month Gazprom and Sonatrach agreed to cooperate in the liquefied natural gas business, “upstream” asset swaps, and joint bidding for assets in third countries.
Italian Industry Minister Pierluigi Bersani said in a letter to EU Energy Commissioner Andris Piebalgs the deal would increase dependency on a limited number of gas suppliers and may push up prices.
Gazprom, the world’s leading gas producer, supplies Europe with a quarter of its gas needs, and Sonatrach is also a major gas exporter to the continent.
“We’re following it very closely,” said European Commission spokesman Stefaan de Rynck, adding the Brussels body was not aware of the specific details of the deal.
The 25-nation European Union is sensitive to its dependency on foreign energy suppliers, which is forecast to increase.
“The agreements between the two major suppliers of gas to Europe … though they do not have an immediate impact, raise the prospect of possible pressures on European gas prices,” Bersani said.
Italy is dependent on imports for about 80 per cent of its natural gas needs. It receives about 32 per cent of its gas from Russia and 37 per cent from Algeria.