UPDATE 2-Poland plays down EU worries over Russia gas deal

Tue Aug 31, 2010 5:40pm BST

Quotes

   

* EU exec concerned about gas deal for Yamal pipeline

* European Commission studying contract, wants open access

* Poland's Tusk says deal meets EU law, signing imminent

(Adds Tusk quotes)

By Pete Harrison and Gabriela Baczynska

BRUSSELS/WARSAW, Aug 31 (Reuters) - A proposed gas deal with Russia could be finalised within days, Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk said on Tuesday, playing down the risk of intervention by European Union regulators in Brussels.

The deal, not yet signed, covers 10 billion cubic metres of gas a year for Poland until 2037, as well as gas flowing onwards to the rest of Europe via the Yamal pipeline.

It is opposed by some Polish ministers and has raised worries about access to the pipeline, which according to EU rules should not be restricted by any such deal.

"We are examining the contract at the moment. We would like to see that it respects EU law," said European Commission spokesman Joseph Hennon. "We want to be certain this is not just a pipeline which is operated by one company or two companies."

"It's in the interests of Polish consumers that as many operators as wish to use this pipeline can do so, and that they can do it at a fair tariff," he added.

Tusk told reporters later on Tuesday he was confident the deal would go ahead soon.

"Our law is consistent with European regulations and we are taking the EC's remarks seriously, but they will not have a decisive impact on this agreement," he said.

"From our point of view, this agreement meets the requirements of Poland and Polish citizens," he added. "I'm sure that it's a matter of just a few days for the deal to be signed."

Deputy Prime Minister Waldemar Pawlak, who negotiated the proposed deal, and European Minister Mikolaj Dowgielewicz will travel to Brussels on Thursday to clarify the final issues, said Tusk.

Some other Polish ministers, including Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski, have criticised the deal, saying it does not help Poland's attempts to diversify its energy sources.

Poland imports about 65-70 percent of the 14 billion cubic metres of its annual gas consumption from Russia, a reliance that worries many in the EU's biggest ex-communist state.

Poland faced an annual shortfall of some 2.5 billion cubic metres of gas as of this year before negotiating the contract.

Separately to the inter-governmental agreement between Warsaw and Moscow, Russia's gas giant Gazprom (GAZP.MM) and Poland's gas monopoly signed a similar deal at a commercial level.

(Reporting by Pete Harrison in Brussels and Gabriela Baczynska in Warsaw)

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