Friday

22nd Jan 2021

Nord Stream II: The 'elephant' at the EU summit

  • Nord Stream I only uses half its capacity (Photo: www.nord-stream.com)

It will be the “elephant in the room,” when EU leaders meet in Brussels on Thursday (17 December) and Friday, one EU diplomat said of Nord Stream II - Germany and Russia’s € 11 billion plan to double the capacity of their Baltic Sea gas pipeline.

Germany says it will help EU energy security, by allowing Russia to keep supplying EU customers if it has another dispute with transit state Ukraine.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

Its critics, mainly in eastern Europe, say it will: increase dependence on Russia; harm Ukraine, by ripping €2 billion a year from its budget; and violate the spirit of EU sanctions on Russia, which are designed to inflict pain in the energy and banking sectors.

They also note that with Nord Stream I currently operating at just 50 percent, there’s no market logic for expansion.

“The issue collides with sanctions against Russia. It’s bystepping the sanctions,” another EU diplomat said.

A third source said: “It's important not to undermine Ukraine’s energy stability.”

The US has voiced criticism. The issue is becoming so heated that even Italy, usually known as a friend of Russia, has joined the eastern European opposition.

Italian PM Matteo Renzi plans to speak out at the summit. Italian foreign minister, Paolo Gentiloni, said in Brussels on Monday: “We expect the European Commission to apply the same rigour in evaluating the project [Nord Stream II] as in other projects.”

His reference to “rigour” comes after the European Commission, last year, blocked a Russian pipeline to Italy, South Stream, on grounds it fell foul of EU single market law, the so called third energy package.

“It [Nord Stream II] has to comply with rules laid down by the third energy package,” another EU diplomat noted.

The “elephant” isn’t mentioned by name in the draft summit conclusions, seen by EUobserver.

Instead, the draft text says: “Any new infrastructure should entirely comply with the third energy package and other applicable EU legislation as well as with the objectives of the Energy Union, such as reduction of energy dependency and diversification of suppliers, sources, and routes.”

The EU commissioner in charge of energy union, Maros Sefcovic, had earlier said Nord Stream II isn’t good for Europe because it increases dependence on one “source”.

But Miguel Arias Canete, another EU commissioner who does energy, has said it is good because it diversifies “routes.”

“Pipelines for us are a nightmare,” another EU diplomat noted.

“Nabucco failed. South Stream failed. Turkish Stream failed and we have no alternative route there in the south, while we are to double the capacity in the north,” the source said, litsing three defunct EU and Russian pipeline projects.

Opinion

Nord Stream: The Sequel

Film studios like to back sequels as safe options, but why's Gazprom doing a follow-up to its German gas pipeline story?

Tusk: Nord Stream II doesn't help

Donald Tusk, the president of the European Council, has said Nord Stream II, a new Russia-Germany gas pipeline, is not in the EU’s interests.

EU unveils €800bn offshore renewables plan

The European Commission aims to increase the bloc's wind energy production at sea massively, reaching at least 300 GW by 2050 - a 25-fold increase from the bloc's current offshore wind capacity of 12 GW

News in Brief

  1. Netherlands imposes curfew to halt new corona variant
  2. Green NGO fails to stop Europe's biggest gas burner
  3. Swedish minister reminds Europe of Russia's war
  4. Spain: Jesuit order apologises for decades of sexual abuse
  5. NGOs urge Borrell to address Egypt rights 'crisis'
  6. EU conflict-area education aid favours boys
  7. EU told to avoid hydrogen in building renovations
  8. Hungary gives initial ok for UK and Russian vaccines

EU Commission methane plan lacks binding agriculture targets

The new European Commission strategy on slashing methane emissions focuses first on obtaining better data. Critics say it is a missed opportunity to impose targets and other binding measures on agriculture, the largest single emitter.

France shuts oldest reactor amid Macron climate pledges

France's oldest nuclear power plant finally closed on Tuesday, one day after president Emmanuel Macron pledged to speed up the country's transition to a greener economy responding to the proposals from the French citizens' convention on climate.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNESDAEU Code of Conduct can showcase PPPs delivering healthier more sustainable society
  2. CESIKlaus Heeger and Romain Wolff re-elected Secretary General and President of independent trade unions in Europe (CESI)
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersWomen benefit in the digitalised labour market
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersReport: The prevalence of men who use internet forums characterised by misogyny
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersJoin the Nordic climate debate on 17 November!
  6. UNESDAMaking healthier diets the easy choice

Latest News

  1. EU leaders keep open borders, despite new corona variant risk
  2. EU and Cuba appeal for Biden to open up
  3. Portugal's EU presidency marks return of corporate sponsors
  4. MEPs chide Portugal and Council in EU prosecutor dispute
  5. EU warns UK to be 'very careful' in diplomatic status row
  6. A digital euro - could it happen?
  7. US returns to climate deal and WHO, as EU 'rejoices'
  8. Big tech: From Trump's best friend to censorship machine?

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us