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Top German MEP joins foes of controversial Nord Stream 2 pipeline

Top German MEP joins foes of controversial Nord Stream 2 pipeline Energy

Top German MEP joins foes of controversial Nord Stream 2 pipeline

The head of the largest party in the European Parliament has launched a scathing attack on the $11bn Nord Stream 2 project to pipe more Russian gas into Germany.

Manfred Weber, chairman of the centre-right European People’s party, said the proposed pipeline would undermine the EU’s foreign and security goals by increasing dependence on Gazprom, Russia’s gas export monopoly.

“The EU risks creating detrimental consequences for the gas supply in central and eastern Europe, including Ukraine, in particular against the background of Gazprom’s announcement to stop gas delivery through Ukraine once Nord Stream 2 is finalised,” he wrote in a letter to Sigmar Gabriel, German economy minister, and Miguel Arias Cañete, EU energy commissioner.

One of the most sensitive political issues surrounding Nord Stream 2 is that its route under the Baltic Sea could divert some of the €2bn that Ukraine’s rickety economy derives from gas pipeline transit fees.

Mr Weber’s intervention is significant because he is a senior German politician whose party is allied to Chancellor Angela Merkel’s within the EPP. Germany is seen as the prime agitator in favour of Nord Stream 2, while Italy and Poland are bitterly opposed.

Critics of the project accuse Germany of hypocrisy for protecting its own interests, while other EU member states argue they had to pay a high price for a confrontational sanctions policy against Russia, after the annexation of Crimea.

Eastern European countries and Italy are still angered by the collapse last year of the planned South Stream project, which would have brought Russian gas to south-eastern Europe under the Black Sea.

The $50bn project failed largely because Brussels insisted on competition rules within an EU energy liberalisation known as the Third Energy Package. Under this legal framework, the European Commission argued that Gazprom would be in violation of the law by providing both the gas and owning the pipeline, without giving other vendors access to the pipeline.

Supporters of Nord Stream 2 argue that it should enjoy a different legal status from South Stream because it will not cross land but will run mainly through international waters in the Baltic.

Mr Weber argued it was critical to resist that potential loophole and for Brussels to insist the project comply with the Third Energy Package. He added the project should also be denied any European financial support. “It would be crucial to know what the German government and the European Commission intend to do to ensure compliance with EU legislation and energy security priorities.”

The pipeline consortium retorts that it would improve energy security by creating a healthier, high-volume gas market, which could help reduce prices in central Europe. The consortium includes both Russian and European energy groups: Gazprom, Shell, BASF, Eon, Engie and OMV.

Rather than new supplies across the Baltic, Mr Weber called upon the commission to accelerate its efforts to import more gas across Turkey from the Caspian Sea, and even potentially Iran and Iraq.

“It is unclear to what extent the European Union is working together with European energy companies towards the realisation of a southern gas corridor,” he wrote.

 

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