Gazprom vice-president Valerii Golubev had a closed-door meeting on September 26 with representatives of the separatist, unrecognized ‘regime’ in Transnistria, including with its self-declared leader Vadim Krasnoselski. The high-ranking representative of Gazprom praised the 25 year-long collaboration with Transnistria, which he considered to be a ‘serious partner’, particularly with regard to gas transit to the Balkans (note that the TransBalkan pipelines pass through the territory of Moldova’s separatist region). Golubev also emphasized that the Moldovan and Transnistrian markets are important for Gazprom, although he brushed over the separatist region’s over 6 billion USD debt to Gazprom.
It is reported that the closed-door discussion centered around mechanisms for implementing European unbundling legislation in the gas sector in Transnistria (namely separation between transport, distribution and supply activities). This is surprising: the Transnistrian region’s claims to statehood are not recognized by any State (Russia included), and thus the de facto autonomous region is not bound by any international or European legislation. Reversely, holding that Tiraspoltransgaz – the company operating the gas network in the territory of the separatist region – has to comply with unbundling legislation would be akin to acknowledging the sovereignty and control of the Government of the Republic of Moldova over the separatist region and its gas transport network. This is, of course, not the case, either.
This is the reason why application of unbundling rules to Tiraspoltransgaz, a company which exists and operates in a gray legal area between Gazprom and Moldovagaz (Moldova’s vertically integrated gas company), seems to be a contradiction of terms. This move is, however, a careful diplomatic exercise on behalf of Russia, to ‘legitimize’ Transnistria as a reliable and necessary partner for future gas-transit in the region – Tiraspoltransgaz remaining, of course, Gazprom’s proxy through which it will maintain control over the TransBalkan pipelines. This is particularly important in the context of potential future flows of Romanian Black Sea gas or Azeri Southern-Gas Corridor gas through the TransBalkan pipelines, from south to north, towards Ukraine.
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