European Union regulations do not permit favoring firms from one member state over another, in terms of access to a Floating Storage Regasification Unit (FSRU) due to arrive off the coast of Finland, to supply both that country and Estonia with their Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) needs over the winter, a former, long-serving head of the Competition Authority (Konkurentsiamet) says.
Märt Ots, who led the authority for 14 years until July this year, said: "We have the basic EU treaties."
"In this case, it would still constitute a regional monopoly if there are no other terminals nearby. The basic agreements stipulate that if this concerns a monopolistic or dominant company, all different gas traders must have free access," Ots went on.
"According to the EU's treaties, all EU companies must have free access to such infrastructure, regardless of whether they are from Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania or elsewhere."
Minister of Economic Affairs and Communications Riina Sikkut (SDE) said earlier in the week that there was still scope for some preferential custom on the part of Estonia.
"Perhaps Estonian gas retailers have at least a temporary advantage," she told ERR Monday.
"The agreement [with Finland] is that if we need gas, some segment of each LNG vessel or a certain part of the slots will have preferential use for Estonian gas sellers," Sikkut added, after meeting her Finnish counterpart at Paldiski, site of Estonia's now-completed LNG quay.
The two ministers agreed that while the FSRU vessel would in the first instance moor off the coast of Finland, at Inkoo, rather than at Paldiski, Estonia will receive preferential treatment.
Thanks to the Balticconnector pipeline, re-gassified LNG can be piped from Finland to Estonia (or vice versa) in any case, though, as Ots noted, competition laws in both countries, as EU member states, are based on the union's treaties, though in a crisis situation such as a shortage of gas, the regulations may differ, he said.
"If we are talking about a normal functioning market, then yes, all EU companies must have free access," Ots said, adding that it wouldn't help much if Estonia and Finland wrote their companies' preferences into domestic law.
Obtaining an LNG supply for Estonia has been discussed for around a decade-and-a-half, but Russia's invasion of Ukraine early this year and the need to decouple from that country's natural gas supply concentrated minds.
Editor: Andrew Whyte