EU stands firm on new gas rules

The European Commission appears resolved to deny Norway's request to slow deregulation in the European natural gas market.

Norwegian authorities had first sought a five-year transition period to comply with European Union's directive on open competition in natural gas deliveries. When that request was denied, the Norwegians asked for a three-year transition period and a more stable framework for "upstream" gas transactions. But according to Aftenposten, the European commissioners remain opposed to any delay in compliance with the directive, which was to take effect last August. On the other hand they appear willing to soften some of its terms to ease Norwegian concerns. In Norway's view, the directive will heighten the economic risk of offshore field developments by discouraging long-term delivery contracts. As a result, Norwegian officials say, natural gas buyers in Europe will have to pay prices that swing according to short-term market factors.