Building Nord Stream-2, which envisages the construction of two pipelines directly from Russia to Germany, bypassing transit countries including Ukraine and Poland, has divided EU leaders.
EU energy spokeswoman Anna Kaisa Itkonen told New Europe on September 18 the Commission “takes note” of the announcement by Russian gas monopoly Gazprom on September 4, together with Germany’s E.ON, Wintershall, Austria’s OMV, France’s ENGIE and Royal Dutch Shell, to consider building two further stretches of Nord Stream pipeline, which pumps gas under the Baltic Sea. The capacity of the two pipelines will be up to 55 billion cubic metres of gas a year.
The Commission said that any pipeline on the territory of EU Member States has to fully respect the EU law – notably in the field of energy, environment, internal market and competition. Energy security is a key priority for the Energy Union, she added.
Itkonen reiterated the Commission’s “position that Ukraine should remain an important transit route to Europe also in the future. The EU is currently importing about one third of its gas from Russia, about half of which currently transits Ukraine”.
While recognising that European domestic production is expected to further decrease and import needs may increase, it should be noted that existing transport capacity from Russia is currently used only at around 50%, she said.
Gazprom CEO Alexey Miller has said that Nord Stream-2 will be in line with the European laws, obviously referring to the Third Energy Package.
But European Commission Vice President for Energy Union Maroš Šefčovič has said the idea raises a “host” of questions on how the project fits with the EU’s energy security and regulatory priorities.
Plans to build Nord Stream-2 have angered some EU leaders that do not want to see the bloc increase its reliance on Russian gas. They have also slammed Russia’s plans to completely bypass Ukraine by 2019. “They’re making fools of us,” Slovakian Prime Minister Robert Fico said. “It isn’t possible to talk on a political level about the need to stabilise Ukraine and at the same time adopt a decision that places Ukraine and also Slovakia in an unenviable position, as this affects the transit of huge amounts of gas through both Ukraine and Slovakia,” Fico said during a meeting with Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk in Slovakia on September 10. Poland also appears opposed to the plan.
The Nord Stream expansion and bypassing Ukraine and Slovakia may cost Ukraine billions of euros and Slovakia hundreds of millions of euros each year, Fico said, accusing European energy companies of betraying Slovakia as a EU member country.
Some members of the European Parliament have taken an equally critical stance.
German MEP Rebecca Harms, chairperson of the Greens, told New Europe on September 8 that the EU “does not need” Nord Stream-2. Elmar Brok, the German chairman of the Parliament’s foreign affairs committee, reportedly said on September 17 that “I should defend it [Nord Stream] as a German, but I don’t”. At a conference organized by Spanish company Repsol, Brok said he is concerned is that Nord Stream-2 would allow Russia to bypass Ukraine, which “could mean that the whole energy security of Eastern European countries might be destroyed”.
follow on twitter @energyinsider