By Foo Yun Chee and Barbara Lewis
BRUSSELS, – The European Union will launch a legal attack on Russian gas giant Gazprom this week, ramping up tensions with Moscow, when antitrust agents will accuse it of overcharging buyers in eastern Europe, EU sources told Reuters on Monday.
Russia’s state-controlled biggest company, a vital supplier of energy to Europe despite frequent political disputes, could receive a full charge sheet from European Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager on Wednesday, one source said.
More than two years after Brussels started investigating Gazprom, the move comes just a week after the new EU antitrust chief charged U.S. tech giant Google with abusing its market power after five years of hesitation by her predecessor.
Vestager seems determined to challenge big corporate powers since taking on the internationally powerful post in November, despite past offers of compromise from both Google and Gazprom.
Despite the Danish commissioner’s insistence that she would look at only the legal merits of a case that focuses on Gazprom pricing policies, differentiating between different customers, the accusations will do nothing to ease EU frictions with Moscow over Ukraine in which gas supplies have played a major role.
The sources said Vestager was likely to send the charge sheet, known as a statement of objections, to Gazprom once she returns from a trip to the United States, where she arrived within hours after charging Google. Such a document sets out concerns about possible anti-competitive practices.
Gazprom and the European Commission declined comment.