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EU to rule on Russian pipeline

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World Pipelines,

The European Commission is set to rule on Gazprom’s want to ship more gas through a key connector pipeline in Germany. This is a sign that Russia and the European Union are mending their business relationships, despite growing tensions over Russia’s bombing campaign in Syria, according to the Wall Street Journal.

This deal, which concerned Gazprom’s Opal pipeline, comes as the commission nears a settlement of its antitrust charges against the company. Together with separate talks to settle an antitrust case against Gazprom, the steps would go a long way to smoothing ties between the EU and Russia, which supplies around one-third of the bloc's gas. These charges are expected to be settled later this week.

The current EU rules are designed to promote competition. Therefore, they cap Gazprom's use of the Opal pipeline, which links Nord Stream to Germany and the Czech Republic. Having full access to Opal is vital for Gazprom's plan to double the capacity of Nord Stream 2 and bypass Ukraine as a route for gas supplies to Europe, a plan that has divided Europe greatly.

The upcoming settlement shows that Russia and the EU are taking steps to ease their business ties, where Russia remains the dominant supplier of natural gas for many of the Commission’s member states. However, with ties strained over Syria and Ukraine, some former Soviet EU members view the deal negatively. They see it as a failure to loosen Russia's grip over energy sectors by Europe, in a region where gas prices can make or break governments.

EU antitrust regulators and Gazprom were due to meet in Brussels today. "(Today’s) meeting is absolutely key and can change the whole game," one EU source said.

The Opal pipeline stretches approximately 470 km (292 miles), from the German Baltic Sea coast to Brandov on the Czech-German border. It is the only link between Gazprom’s Nord Stream pipeline, which ships gas directly from Russia to northern Germany and Central and Eastern Europe.

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