However, the ECJ’s final ruling may differ from the advocate general’s opinion, which is unfavourable to Lithuania, both the Lithuanian Energy Ministry and a spokesman for the EU court said.
“In the advocate general’s opinion, such judgments should be enforced, but his opinion is not binding on the court. We expect the ECJ to issue its ruling in early 2015,” the ministry told BNS.
In his opinion, which was issued on Thursday, Melchior Wathelet says that Lithuania cannot refuse to recognize and enforce an anti-suit injunction issued by an arbitration tribunal based on the so-called Brussels I Regulation and that the fact that an arbitral award contains an anti-suit injunction is not a sufficient ground for refusing to recognize and enforce it on the basis of the 1958 New York Convention.
ECJ spokeswoman Ana-Maria Krestel also told BNS that the court’s final ruling will not necessarily be the same as the advocate general’s opinion.
“This is only the advocate general’s opinion. The final ruling will come later. The final ruling may be completely different or the same,” she told BNS.
The Lithuanian Supreme Court in October 2013 asked the ECJ for a preliminary ruling on whether a Lithuanian court has the right to refuse to recognize the Stockholm arbitration tribunal’s decision regarding Gazprom’s gas price.
The dispute centres on an action brought by the Energy Ministry in a Lithuanian court, seeking initiation of an investigation of the activities of Lietuvos Dujos (Lithuanian Gas) and its top executives – Valery Golubev and Kiril Seleznev of Gazprom and Viktoras Valentukevičius.
The Arbitration Institute of the Stockholm Chamber of Commerce ruled in July 2012 that the Energy Ministry-initiated court probe breached in part the arbitration agreement contained in Lietuvos Dujos shareholders’ agreement of 24 March 2004 and ordered that the ministry withdraw some of its requests, including the one that the court should order Lietuvos Dujos to start negotiations with Gazprom on a fair gas price.
The Lithuanian Court of Appeals in 2012 refused to recognize and enforce the arbitral award.
All of the three executives have since left the company. Gazprom earlier this year reduced the price of gas supplied to Lietuvos Dujos by 21 percent and sold its stake in the Lithuanian company.