Berlin places under guardianship the German subsidiary of Gazprom

A view of the headquarters of the German subsidiary of Russian gas giant Gazprom Germania in Berlin, March 17, 2014.

Quite a symbol. Gazprom Germania, the German subsidiary of the Russian gas giant Gazprom, will temporarily come under state control, German Economy Minister Robert Habeck (Greens) announced on Monday 4 April. Concretely, the management of the company will be entrusted to the Federal Network Agency (Bundesnetzagentur), the administrative authority responsible for regulating the gas, electricity, telecommunications and railways sectors, specified Mr. Habeck, who thus justified this placement under guardianship – recorded until September 30: “The government is doing what is necessary to ensure security of supply in Germany, and this means in particular not exposing energy infrastructures to arbitrary decisions by the Kremlin. »

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Sole shareholder of Gazprom Germania, which operates major gas storage and transport facilities in Germany and other European countries, such as the United Kingdom, the Czech Republic and Switzerland, Gazprom announced on 1er April that he had withdrawn his assets from his subsidiary. By deciding, three days later, to take control of it, the German government wanted to prevent it from falling into hostile hands, or even being liquidated outright.

In Berlin, the concerns were real. In a press release published on Monday afternoon, the German Ministry of Economics announced ” have learned “ that Gazprom had decided to sell its subsidiary to two Russian companies – JSC Palmary and Gazprom Export Business Services LLC –, ” of which [il] not clear who is behind” and whose intention was to carry out its “liquidation”. In order to prevent such an outcome, the German government therefore refused to give the green light to the sale of the company, relying for this on a law which stipulates that its agreement is necessary for any acquisition of“critical infrastructure” by investors outside the European Union (EU).

Ambivalences and contradictions

Putting forward this legal argument should not, however, cause us to lose sight of the eminently political dimension of such a decision. By taking control of Gazprom Germania, the German government is responding to those who accuse it of lacking firmness towards Russia for the sake of preserving its economic interests. From this point of view, the announcement by the Minister for the Economy that the German subsidiary of Gazprom would be placed under supervision, made public on Monday afternoon, opportunely came to counterbalance the remarks made by his colleague in charge of finance, the liberal Christian Lindner, who earlier in the day said from Luxembourg ahead of a meeting with his EU counterparts that Germany was not ready to do without Russian gas ” short term “explaining that such renunciation [lui] would harm more than Russia ».

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