Estonia hopes for EU exemption over Finnish LNG priority buying status

LNG. Source: Siim Lõvi/ERR

Estonia's Ministry of Economic Affairs is hoping for a temporary exemption to EU competition rules which would give the country priority status when buying liquified natural gas (LNG) from Finland.

Minister of Economic Affairs Riina Sikkut (SDE) said Finland has agreed to give Estonia companies preferential treatment under a bilateral agreement.

But the Competition Authority on Thursday said any kind of priority status would be in conflict with European Union rules. 

"Basically, granting any kind of advantage which restricts the market is not in line with EU rules. It is not impossible that there are some specific interests that need to be protected," said Evelin Pärn-Lee, the agency's director general.

The ministry said similar rules already exist elsewhere in the EU in case an energy crisis arises.

Timo Tatar, deputy secretary general for energy, said a temporary exemption is justified in Estonia's case.

An LNG tanker ship arriving in the Lithuanian port of Klaipeda. Source: Eesti Gaas

"We are not talking about a long-term solution. The long-term solution is for such terminals to operate with full third-party access, but now that we are in an energy crisis, and this terminal has been set up primarily to improve the security of supply for Finnish and Estonian consumers, there are enough exemptions in EU law that could now be applied," he said.

He said it is not yet clear if Estonia needs to request an exemption from Brussels as it depends on how the agreement works in practice.

Pärn-Lee said the agency believes an exemption is not impossible, but it seems unlikely.

Prime Minister Kaja Kallas (Reform) said the Cabinet would discuss it Thursday and receive an overview of the situation from Sikkut.

"Knowing how law-abiding Finns are, I doubt that they would propose something that would go against the rules," Kallas said.


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Editor: Helen Wright, Barbara Oja

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