Record fine laid by Polish watchdog on Nord Stream 2 project participant

The Polish Office of Competition and Consumer Protection (UOKiK) decided that Swiss Engie Energy company will have the pay the fine of PLN 172 mln (EUR 40.3 mln), which is the largest penalty laid on an entity in the history of UOKiK.

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Marek Niechciał, the head of UOKiK, said that such a high penalty sets a precedent and the office will do everything to execute it.

According to the statement of the office, the fine is a result of “lack of cooperation in the procedure conducted by the head of the Polish anti-monopoly office, Marek Niechciał.”

“Engie Energy persistently and without any justification refused to hand over requested documents and materials. It caused a significant delay in our activities concerning financing the Nord Stream 2 pipeline,” Michał Holeksa, deputy head of UOKiK said.

“The head of UOKiK pressed charges against six companies which are accused of financing the transaction, despite lack of approval of the Polish anti-monopoly office. These are members of international groups: Gazprom from Russia, Engie from Switzerland, along with four Dutch enterprises: Uniper, OMV, Shell and Wintershall,” the statement reads.

UOKiK states that the activities of these companies can be an attempt to bypass regulations by establishing a company financing the construction of the pipeline without the approval of the anti-monopoly office.

Mr Niechciał said that UOKiK was obliged to find a company with up to EUR 50 mln, but due to the fact that this is the first such large fine, he decided to decrease it to around EUR 40 mln.

The Nord Stream 2 project, linking Russian gas fields with the German distribution network, is a profit-oriented venture, but critics point out it could also serve as a tool of economic blackmail.

Poland, along with several other European countries, sees Nord Stream 2, which bypasses Ukraine, as a political project, meant to weaken that country and gain leverage over Europe by making it more dependent on Russian gas.