STRASBOURG – Trialogue negotiations between the European Parliament and the Council with the participation of European Energy and Climate Change Commissioner Miguel Arias Cañete concluded on February 12 with an agreement on new rules to ensure that pipelines with third countries, including the controversial Nord Stream-2 gas pipeline from Russia to Germany, comply with EU law. The rules improve the functioning of the EU gas market and strengthening solidarity, Cañete tweeted.

At a closed meeting in room 700 of the Winston Churchill building that lasted until late at night on February 12, Cañete, rapporteur Polish MEP Jerzy Buzek and the Romanian EU Presidency finally came to an agreement. The amended rules will cover both internal EU gas pipelines as well as all gas pipelines from non-EU countries into the EU, creating legal clarity for existing and new gas infrastructure, the Parliament said.

The new rules give exclusive competence to the EU when it comes to agreements on new EU gas lines with non-EU countries. The member state in which the pipeline’s first entry point is located shall consult the non-EU country concerned before deciding on an exemption based on EU rules. The Commission will take the binding decision on whether to grant the exemption. If the member state’s assessment differs from that of the Commission, it is the Commission’s assessment that prevails.

The European Parliament also included in the text that under no circumstances should an agreement between a member state and a non-EU country lead to the implementation of this directive being delayed. Member states will have nine months to bring their national legislation in line with this directive.

After the deal was reached, Buzek said: “Many wanted to see these negotiations fail as, without this agreement, EU rules would not be applicable to gas pipelines from non-EU countries. With today’s deal, all future gas pipelines from non-EU countries, including Nord Stream-2, will have to abide by EU rules. This has always been the main goal of the European Parliament and I am delighted that this is today confirmed in the agreement with the Council.”

Nord Stream-2 has to respect EU rules

ALDE Shadow Rapporteur, Morten Helveg Petersen said, “This is a positive agreement for EU energy independence and a bad one for Moscow, which prefers to deal with European countries bilaterally.”

“Without any deal, Nord Stream-2 would have been built and used without any EU competition rules applying — a kind of Wild West scenario,” Petersen argued. “With the review of this legislation, we ensure that Nord Stream-2 has to respect EU competition rules and if they don’t, the Commission can block the project altogether,” he added.

The Trialogue confirmed the German-French compromise that the Gas Directive will be applied to Nord Stream-2 only in German territorial waters.

Nord Stream-2 EU Representative Sebastian Sass told New Europe, “We are following the legislative procedure around the Gas Directive, but at this point there are no final documents yet on the basis of which we could make an assessment. The legislative procedure is still ongoing in the EU institutions. But irrespective of that, I can confirm that the legislative procedure around the Gas Directive does not concern the laws governing the construction and environmental permits in the countries along the route of Nord Stream-2.”

He said the pipeline is proceeding according to schedule, in full compliance with applicable legislation and with the full support of its financial investors.

Sass reminded that more than 600 kilometres of pipes have been laid in accordance with existing permits. “Against the background of the ongoing legislative procedure concerning the Gas Directive, we emphasise the need to protect investment certainty in the energy sector. Legislators should take into account investment decisions that were made in full compliance with the applicable legal framework prior to the publication of the proposal amending the Gas Directive,” Sass said.

Parliament and Council Approval

The deal will now be put to the European Parliament’s Industry, Research and Energy Committee and plenary for approval as well as to the Council.

Commissioner Cañete hailed the agreement, noting that this is a major step forward in the creation of a truly integrated internal gas market. “Today, Europe is closing a loophole in the EU legal framework. The new rules ensure that EU law will be applied to pipelines bringing gas to Europe and that everyone interested in selling gas to Europe must respect European energy law. Together with the previously agreed rules on security of gas supply and Intergovernmental Agreements, Europe has given itself a strong set of tools to deal effectively and collectively with our external energy suppliers,” Cañete said.