Russia to seek WTO backing if EU restricts its energy companies

Other News Materials 12 October 2007 18:35

( RIA Novosti ) - Russia will ask the World Trade Organization to protect its interests if the European Union passes laws restricting Russian energy companies' operations on its territory, Moscow's top WTO negotiator said.

Russian oil and gas companies, in particular natural gas giant Gazprom, have been looking to expand into Europe. The state company, a leading gas supplier to Europe, considered buying Britain's largest gas distribution company Centrica last year, but U.K. authorities blocked the takeover fearing excessive dependency on Russian supplies.

The EU plans to pass new bills in spring to reform its energy market and divide companies into producers and sellers. These legislative initiatives, if adopted, will make it difficult for Gazprom to buy assets in Europe.

"If Russia does become a WTO member and colleagues in Brussels [or the EU] make this decision, we will closely examine the opportunities that the WTO offers for the protection of our interests," Maksim Medvedkov said.

Medvedkov earlier said he expected Russia to join the WTO by the end of this year.