Posts Tagged Gazprom

Principles, principles everywhere. First test of the ‘energy solidarity’ principle in Poland v EC (Nordstream /Gazprom).

As I continue to dabble in research and talks about the innovation ‘principle’ (not in existence), and find myself in court (an attachment procedure following judgment in Israel) discussing the common law principle that ‘he who comes to equity must approach the court with clean hands’, the CJEU (General Court) yesterday in T-883/16 held Poland v EC a first test of the TFEU Energy title’s ‘principle of energy solidarity’. Note Poland’s litigant friends (Latvia; Lithuania), and the EC’s (Germany). This tells you something about energy security of supply on our Eastern borders.

Article 194 TFEU: ‘1. In the context of the establishment and functioning of the internal market and with regard for the need to preserve and improve the environment, Union policy on energy shall aim, in a spirit of solidarity between Member States, to:…’

The gas pipeline Ostseepipeline-Anbindungsleitung ﴾OPAL) is the terrestrial section to the west of the Nord Stream 1 gas pipeline. Its entry point is located in Germany and its exit point is in the Czech Republic. In 2009, the Bundesnetzagentur (BNetzA, the German regulatory authority) notified the Commission of two decisions that exempted the capacities for cross-border transmission of the planned OPAL pipeline from the application of the rules on third party access and tariff regulation laid down in Directive 2003/55. Those decisions concerned the shares belonging to the two owners of the OPAL pipeline. The same year, the Commission adopted a decision by which it requested the BNetzA to modify its decisions by adding certain conditions. Under those conditions, in particular, a dominant undertaking, such as Gazprom, could reserve only 50% of the cross-border capacities of the OPAL pipeline, unless it released onto the market a
volume of gas of 3 billion m³/year on that pipeline (‘the gas release programme’). In accordance with those three decisions of 2009, the capacities of the OPAL pipeline were exempted from the application of the rules on regulated third-party access and tariff regulation on the basis of Directive 2003/55. This decision was later (2016) slightly amended albeit not in substance.

Poland argue that the grant of a new exemption relating to the OPAL pipeline threatens the security of gas supply in the European Union, in particular in central Europe. Poland suggests that the 2016 decision breaches the principle of energy solidarity in that it enables Gazprom and undertakings in the Gazprom group to redirect additional volumes of gas onto the EU market by fully exploiting the capacities of the North Stream 1 pipeline. Taking into account the lack of significant growth in demand for natural gas in central Europe, according to Poland, that would, as its only possible consequence, influence the conditions of supply and use of transmission services on the pipelines competing with OPAL.

The General Court yesterday (the case no doubt may be appealed) held that the application of the principle of energy solidarity does not mean that the EU energy policy must never have negative impacts on the particular interests of a Member State in the field of energy. However, the EU institutions and the Member States are required to take into account, in the context of the implementation of that policy, the interests both of the European Union and of the various Member States and to balance those interests where there is a conflict. In neither the preparation of the 2016 decision nor its actual content is there any trace of the EC having considered the principle and its impact: the Decision is therefore annulled.

The case adds to the corpus of judgments where the CJEU is called upon to apply ‘principles’ and clearly emphasises preparatory due diligence, rather than second-guessing the actual application of the principle in substance.

Geert.

(Handbook of) EU Environmental Law (with Leonie Reins), 2017, Part I Chapter 2.

 

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Nori Holdings: High Court holds that West Tankers is still good authority even following Brussels I Recast. (Told you so).

In [2018] EWHC 1343 (Comm) Nori Holdings v Otkritie  Males J follows exactly the same line as mine in commenting on West Tankers – specifically the bodged attempt in Brussels I Recast to accommodate the concerns over West Tankers’ sailing the Brussels I ship way too far into arbitral shores.

For my general discussion of the jurisdictional /arbitration issues see here. A timeline:

  • When the Council came up with its first draft of what became more or less verbatim the infamous recital 12 I was not enthusiastic.
  • When Wathelet AG in his Opinion in Gazprom suggested recital 12 did overturn West Tankers, I was not convinced. (Most of those supporting this view read much into recital 12 first para’s instruction that the Regulation does not impede courts’ power ‘from referring the parties to arbitration’).
  • Indeed the CJEU’s judgment in Gazprom did not commit itself either way (seeing as it did not entertain the new Regulation).
  • Cooke J was on the right track in Toyota v Prolat: in his view the Recast did not change West Tankers.
  • Males J confirms: West Tankers is still good authority. At 69 ff he does not just point out that Wathelet was not followed by the Court. 92 ff he adds five more reasons not to follow the suggestion that West Tankers has been overruled. He concludes ‘that there is nothing in the Recast Regulation to cast doubt on the continuing validity of the decision in West Tankers (Case C-185/07) [2009] AC 1138 which remains an authoritative statement of EU law’.

I agree.

Geert.

(Handbook of) EU Private International Law, 2nd ed. 2016, Heading 2.2.2.10.2.

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Arbitral anti-suit injunctions and the Judgments Regulation. Grand Chamber holds they are outside the scope, but not therefore invincible.

The ECJ today has held, in a matter of factly manner (I had suspected the Court would be brief), that the enforcement of arbitral awards falls outside the Brussels I-Regulation, where that enforcement by the court of that State, effectively prohibits the party concerned from taking the case to a court in that very Member State. Rich was the main formula referred to, among the various precedents: ‘reference must be made solely to the subject-matter of the dispute‘ to assess the scope of Brussels I’s arbitral exclusion.

Importantly, West Tankers was distinguished particularly on the basis that in the facts at issue, there was no competing court in another Member State, hence no scope for the principle of mutual trust to be violated. The AG’s review of the impact of the recitals newly added by the Brussels I recast, was not addressed at all by the Court.

The judgment does not solve all outstanding issues, however. Firstly, the Court’s reasoning seems to suggest that where competition with a court in another Member State is at issue, effet utile of the Brussels I Regulation might take the upper hand, as it did in West Tankers. Recognition of the award arguably in such case would amount to anti-suit. Further, the Court (this was a Grand Chamber judgment) points out that the award still has to go through the national court’s standard recognition and enforcement process, outside the framework of Title III of the Regulation, instead governed by national residual law as well as the New York Convention. Both of these (including through ordre public) might still offer quite a remit for the Lithuanian courts to refuse recognition.

Geert.

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Gazprom, arbitral Antisuit Injunctions and the Judgments Regulation: Wathelet AG gets one or two things off his chest

Wathelet AG opined yesterday in Gazprom, Case C-536/13, re the fate of arbitral anti-suit injunctions. (See my posting on the application, for context). He takes the opportunity to add to the chorus of criticism of the ECJ’s West Tankers ruling, at considerable length; and to review the ‘new’ regime under the Brussels I recast, in light of recital 12 of that Regulation.

His review of the ‘new’ regime of the Brussels I recast, and the contrasting positions of the EC and a number of Member States, support my proposition that the recast, by incorporating a summary of previous case-law in its recitals, has certainly not clarified things beyond discussion. Wathelet in fact suggest that the recitals do rebuke the ECJ and return application of the Regulation to the Rich scenario – however I am not convinced that Rich itself necessarily clarifies things. (It, too, like Van Uden and like the current recital, uses a confusing variety of criteria. I have a paper forthcoming on the Brussels I recast (already in a Dutch version should readers be interested) which looks into this).

At any rate, the lengthy review of the position under the recast evidently is outside the scope of the preliminary review, since the recast does not apply to it, and the ECJ is certain not to entertain the AG’s review of the recast and his rebuke of West Tankers at all. (Although his critical views are not likely to endear him to the Court).

Returning to the actual questions, the AG suggests the Court reply that that the Brussels I Regulation is not applicable in the present case (it falling exclusively within the scope of the 1958 New York Convention) and that, in any event, (what is effectively) an anti-suit injunction issued by an arbitration tribunal is not contrary to that Regulation. Finally, that under the New York Convention, a Member State cannot classify Brussels I’s jurisdictional regime as being ‘ordre public’ and hence capable of leading to refusal of recognition of an arbitral award.

The AG decisively supports arbitration in this opinion, however the ECJ is bound to be much shorter (and perhaps less sympathetic) in its judgment. To be continued….

Geert.

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Should arbitral anti-suit injunctions follow the West Tankers fate? Lithuanian court challenges the ECJ

In Case C-536/13 Gazprom, the Lithuanian Supreme Court has challenged the ECJ to specify the limits (or not) of its findings in West Tankers – on which I have reported extensively elsewhere. The Court of Justice ruled in February 2009 on the basis of effet utile that the English courts were out of their league in issuing an anti-suit injunction, prohibiting Allianz and Generali from pursuing the case in the Italian courts (on the basis of Article 5(3)’s special jurisdictional rule for tort) and obliging them to take the case to arbitration in London.

In Gazprom, A tribunal rendered an award holding that proceedings by Lithuania in Vilnius partially breached the arbitration clause in the shareholders’ agreement between parties. The arbitral tribunal ordered the Republic of Lithuania to withdraw certain claims filed before the Lithuanian courts and to amend other claims. Gazprom is seeking enforcement of the SCC award in Lithuania. Relevant summaries of the award and of the Lithuanian proceedings are available here. The instruction of restraint contained in the award is effectively an anti-suit injunction, albeit rendered by a tribunal instead of a court. The effect of both is the same: does the West Tankers rationale therefore hold (West Tankers, readers will remember, relied on the effet utile of the Regulation to extend its reach to anti-suit injunctions in support of arbitral proceedings, notwithstanding the latter’s clear exclusion from the Regulation)?

Questions referred:

Where an arbitral tribunal issues an anti-suit injunction and thereby prohibits a party from bringing certain claims before a court of a Member State, which under the rules on jurisdiction in the Brussels I Regulation has jurisdiction to hear the civil case as to the substance, does the court of a Member State have the right to refuse to recognise such an award of the arbitral tribunal because it restricts the court’s right to determine itself whether it has jurisdiction to hear the case under the rules on jurisdiction in the Brussels I Regulation?

Should the first question be answered in the affirmative, does the same also apply where the anti-suit injunction issued by the arbitral tribunal orders a party to the proceedings to limit his claims in a case which is being heard in another Member State and the court of that Member State has jurisdiction to hear that case under the rules on jurisdiction in the Brussels I Regulation?

Can a national court, seeking to safeguard the primacy of European Union law and the full effectiveness of the Brussels I Regulation, refuse to recognise an award of an arbitral tribunal if such an award restricts the right of the national court to decide on its own jurisdiction and powers in a case which falls within the jurisdiction of the Brussels I Regulation?

No chamber has as yet been allocated to the case however I would not be surprised were it to be the Grand Chamber.

Geert.

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