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Natural gas market liberalization will not mean end to "Gazprom" monopoly

 RIGA, April 25 - Liberalization of the gas market in Latvia will not liquidate the monopoly of "Gazprom", joint-stock company "Latvijas Gaze" deputy CEO Jorg Tumat said today during a conference on the development of the Baltic natural gas market in the next five years.

Whatever decisions are taken in Latvia, this will not change "Gazprom" monopoly until the region's liquefied natural gas terminal is built, stressed Tumat. The current monopoly is regulated, which is a different status altogether than an unregulated monopoly, he added.

The public is currently very emotional about the matter. People are concerned and seem to feel threatened by "Gazprom" monopoly. There is also a desire to participate in free-market processes, explained Tumat.

According to Tumat, the Baltic States are in need of a liquefied natural gas terminal. The question is about its funding and costs.

Under the Brussels directives, there are several market liberalization options for Latvia to choose from, he said. Brussels is not telling Latvia to immediately break up the monopoly, and there have been no official reproaches regarding failures to observe the liberalization schedule.

Further decisions on liberalization of the natural gas market must take into account interests of consumers, investors and the state, stressed Tumat.

The conference, organized by "Soros Foundation-Latvia", is attended by experts, representatives from the largest energy utilities and policymakers to discuss balancing suppliers and consumers' interests and discuss Latvia's integration in the European gas market.
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