Saturday, 23 February, 2019

The Times view on Russian gas lines: Putin's Pipe Dreams

Media playback is unsupported on your device                  Media caption Gas wars The problem with Nord Stream 2 Media playback is unsupported on your device Media caption Gas wars The problem with Nord Stream 2
Melinda Barton | 10 February, 2019, 22:01

"There was indeed an agreement which was only possible thanks to close cooperation between France and Germany", German Chancellor Angela Merkel told reporters in Berlin when asked about Nord Stream 2.

France and Germany have struck a compromise allowing Berlin to remain the lead negotiator with Russian Federation on the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline to Europe, a proposed deal showed Friday.

In the end 27 of the bloc's 28 ambassadors reportedly agreed with a Franco-German compromise, which meant that Germany could remain as lead negotiator on the Nord Stream 2 project.

EU governments are due on Friday to decide whether to advance the draft European energy legislation.

Critics are also anxious that the pipeline could deliver a major blow to Ukraine's economy since along with its TurkStream project - another pipeline that runs from Russia to Turkey - Russia would be able to completely bypass Ukraine pipelines, leaving Kyev without gas transit fees.

Many European countries rely on Russian Federation for natural gas, which makes them susceptible to potentially having their gas supplies cut off.

The long-stalled agreement comes after a last-ditch German and French push to amend the draft and give Berlin a greater say in how to ensure the pipeline to carry Russian gas to Europe under the Baltic Sea complies with European Union law.

The gas pipeline will link Russian Federation directly with Germany and will be the second gas pipeline connecting Russian Federation with Europe crossing the Baltics.

What are the worries with Nord Stream 2?

In an effort to address concerns, Merkel has insisted that gas volumes must continue via Ukraine - the traditional route for supplies that make up over a third of the EU's gas needs.

But if the European Union commission law gets through, Gazprom will have to sell Nord Stream 2 gas via an independent intermediary.

"Cancelling the project would send a clear signal that Moscow can not get away unscathed with its aggression against neighbouring states [Ukraine], and its meddling in our democracies", they added, referring to accusations that Russian Federation had attacked USA and French and German elections in recent years.

Eastern European countries like Poland and Ukraine oppose the project because they say it specifically bypasses their territories.

Any delay to Gazprom's push to complete construction of Nord Stream 2 in 2019 could weaken Moscow's hand in those negotiations.

Moscow said on Friday the pipeline would benefit all European countries.

"That France places the good of European unity over solidarity with Germany is correct", Norbert Roettgen, the head of the foreign affairs committee in the German parliament, said on Thursday.

German businesses are very involved in the pipeline, having invested heavily in the project, which is run by former Chancellor Gerhard Schröder.