The European Commission said on December 6 that it welcomed a decision by the European Energy Community to give Moldova more time to adopt EU unbundling rules in the gas sector, until 2020.
Under a pro-EU government for the past two years, Moldova has sought closer ties with the EU, including negotiations on securing visa-free travel for its citizens in the bloc and an association agreement with the EU.
EC president Jose Manuel Barroso, during a visit to Moldova last week, said that the EU has already launched the second phase of the visa liberalisation plan. “I am certain that this objective can be achieved in a not-too-distant future,” he said.
On the association agreement, which would include a free trade agreement with the EU, Barroso said he was hopeful that negotiations could be completed in time for the Eastern Partnership summit in Vilnius in 2013.
Moldova also joined the EU’s Energy Community Treaty, meant to extend EU law in the fields of energy and environment to countries outside the bloc, including the implementation of EU’s Third Energy Package, which envisions market liberalisation by 2015.
The ministerial council of the Energy Community agreed to give Moldova a delay to implement gas market liberalisation until 2020 ¬– the country receives all its gas from Russia’s Gazprom, which also owns the country’s gas grid. Gas accounts for most of the country’s electricity and central heating generation, while key parts of the grid infrastructure are located in the breakaway region of Transnistria.
“All these circumstances make it difficult for Moldova to implement the unbundling provisions in time,” the EC said.
Moldova has already signed a deal with neighbouring Romania for an interconnector pipeline that would allow the country to diversify its source of gas – the pipeline is due to be completed in 2014 and would allow Moldova to import 1.5 billion cubic metres of gas a year, enough to satisfy domestic consumption.
It would also give Moldovan authorities leverage in negotiations with Gazprom, which has, in recent months, been pressuring Moldova to abandon EU energy rules in exchange for better terms on a new gas delivery contract. The pipeline will cost 20 million euro and will be partially funded by the EU.
“Securing the uninterrupted supply with gas for the Moldovan citizens and businesses is the priority and Moldova can count on the solidarity of the European Union and Energy Community partners on this,” EU’s energy commissioner Guenther Oettinger said in a statement.