Local view for "http://purl.org/linkedpolitics/eu/plenary/2005-03-07-Speech-1-097"

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"Mr President, Commissioner, ladies and gentlemen, liberalisation is, in principle, a good thing. Where gas is concerned, though, it will have scarcely any effect. Why is this so? There are two main reasons. For a start, let us consider the producers, who, as far as we are concerned, at present comprise only Russia, Norway and Algeria, an oligopoly which determines what goes on in the gas market, and a market force which, for example, allows 90% of the price of gas in Europe to be tied to oil. Economically speaking, there is no reason why this should be so; it is about pure market clout, or, to put it with brutal frankness, it is nothing more than a rip-off. There is no sign of the producers competing among themselves; what is the use of regulating what happens down-stream, if, upstream, there is nothing more than an oligopoly made up of the Big Three. The situation is similar to that at a weekly market, where, if there are more strawberries, the price drops, and so, taking that as an example, the Russians ought to bring more gas onto the world market and start to compete with the Norwegians, thereby bringing the price down, but they will not do that of their own free will and accord. This is where the Council and the Commission must act! It is the major national and international distributors who constitute the second obstacle, while our present measures affect mainly the small ones. Who, for example, supplies gas to a medium-sized town’s power network in Germany? The Russians would laugh themselves to death if a German town wanted to buy power directly from Gazprom and have the stuff delivered straight to it. This is where it is cause for concern that Europe’s major electricity providers are now also the main suppliers of gas. If we want competition and liberalisation, then the industry must not be structured vertically, with everything, from extraction to the last distributor, being in the same pair of hands. We have to be active in preventing, for example, the Big Four in Germany forming themselves into a vertical and even broader structure and buying out all the smaller and medium-sized distributors. Both in Italy, with its ENEL and ENI, and in France with GDF and EDF, exactly the same thing happens. In a business defined by network pipelines, there must be distributors who are independent of the major producers. Nothing else makes any sense in a field like this, in which capital links are detrimental to competition. As good as they may be, our efforts today will, unfortunately, be largely without effect if we do not face up to these challenges."@en1

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