BRUSSELS, Belgium (AP) _ Gaz de France and Germany's Ruhrgas agreed to improve access for other companies to their pipelines to settle a long-running case with European Union regulators, the European Commission said Friday.

EU Competition Commissioner Mario Monti said the commitments would remain in force for ``several years'' and would be monitored by a trustee, who will report regularly back to Brussels.

``Effective access to gas transport networks is essential for the introduction of competition on the European gas markets to the benefit of industrial users and ultimately consumers,'' Monti said in a statement.

Friday's settlements close a case that goes back to the 1990s, when the Norwegian subsidiary of U.S.-based Marathon Oil Corp. complained it was being denied access to pipelines of five gas companies in continental Europe.

Settlements were announced with Thyssengas in 2001, and with the Dutch company Gasunie and BEB, a German joint venture of ExxonMobil Corp. and Royal Dutch Shell Co., in 2003.