Monday

26th Jun 2017

EU and Germany in talks on future of Russian pipeline

  • Gerhard Schroeder, a former German chancellor who went to work for Gazprom, signs a Nord Stream II pipe (Photo: nord-stream2.com)

The European Commission has said that energy laws should apply to offshore as well as onshore parts of Russia's new gas pipeline, Nord Stream 2 .

Maros Sefcovic, the EU energy commissioner, told a group of reporters in Brussels on Monday (13 March) that he was in talks with the German energy regulator, the Bundesnetzagentur, on the issue.

Dear EUobserver reader

Subscribe now for unrestricted access to EUobserver.

Sign up for 30 days' free trial, no obligation. Full subscription only 15 € / month or 150 € / year.

  1. Unlimited access on desktop and mobile
  2. All premium articles, analysis, commentary and investigations
  3. EUobserver archives

EUobserver is the only independent news media covering EU affairs in Brussels and all 28 member states.

♡ We value your support.

If you already have an account click here to login.

  • Sefcovic: "We have to avoid a legal void" (Photo: European Commission)

“The commission’s approach is that once this offshore pipeline reaches exclusive zones and territorial waters of the European Union, it’s quite clear that the core principles of EU law should be applied,” he said.

He said the core principles were “unbundling, tariff setting, capacity allocation, third-party access”.

“We have to avoid a legal void or the situation where the whole offshore part of the pipeline would be built just according to Russian law,” he said.

The Nord Stream 2 pipeline is to run from Russia to Germany, concentrating almost all of Russia’s EU gas exports in that route.

It will also pass through the economic zones or territorial waters of Finland, Sweden, and Denmark.

Its critics, chief among them Poland, say it would help Russia to use gas cut-offs as an instrument of political blackmail in central Europe and that it would harm Ukraine by making its gas transit pipes obsolete.

Russia has said that only onshore parts of Nord Stream 2 should be governed by EU laws.

It abhors those laws, which led to the cancellation of a similar project in the Black Sea, because they would force Gazprom, the Russian state firm that owns the pipeline, to split up or “unbundle” its assets and to let competing firms use the infrastructure.

Sefcovic said Germany and Russia did not plan to sign an intergovernmental pact on the project, which would have given EU officials some oversight powers.

He said they planned to build the multi-billion euro scheme using a “special purpose vehicle” instead.

He said he had asked Germany to “develop” a legal structure that would honour the EU core principles.

The Nord Stream 2 consortium, a firm based in the Swiss tax haven of Zug, originally involved five EU firms, but these withdrew after a complaint from Poland, leaving Gazprom on its own.

It says it is on track to have bought 480km of pipes by the end of March and recently hired Allseas, a Swiss contractor, to start laying them.

Poland, the Baltic states, and Nordic countries have asked the commission to issue an opinion on the compatibility of Nord Stream 2 with EU law.

But Sefcovic has declined to do that, saying it was not the commission’s job to pre-evaluate private projects and that it would be hard in any case because the Nord Stream 2 legal models kept changing.

He said on Monday that the EU was pressing ahead with plans to “make sure” that Caspian Sea gas from Azerbaijan “reaches the EU by 2020”.

He also said the EU was becoming less dependent on Russia by building liquid natural gas (LNG) terminals.

He said his US counterparts, on a recent visit to Washington, had told him US suppliers were keen to ship more liquid gas to Europe.

He also said LNG investments, which are more expensive than pipeline gas, would bring down gas prices in the long term by making it into a global commodity such as oil.

“It would make it possible for Europeans to choose from many global suppliers,” he said.

Nord Stream 2: Business unusual

Neither sanctions, EU law nor politics can stop the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline from being built, its small army of European lobbyists has said.

Column / Crude World

Nordstream 2: Alternative pipeline facts

Arguments put forward by Nord Stream 2's Brussels lobbyist in defence of the Russian-led project are not consistent and ignore some basic facts.

EU fixes own mistake on 'confusing' energy labels

UPDATED: MEPs approved a new system to inform consumers about the energy efficiency of products. The most important change is abolishing the most recent change to a scale that goes up to A+++.

US prevents G7 energy statement

The United States did not sign a joint statement at a G7 summit on energy because it did not want to include a reference to the Paris climate agreement.

News in Brief

  1. Seasoned finance minister takes over Dutch coalition talks
  2. British PM closes government deal with Northern Irish party
  3. Merkel on collision course with US at G20 summit
  4. Schulz outlines German election strategy, hits out at Merkel
  5. Berlusconi's party sees comeback in Italian local votes
  6. Low turnout in Albanian election set to mandate EU future
  7. Merkel and Macron hold symbolic joint press conference
  8. Juncker has 'no' clear idea of kind of Brexit UK wants

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Malta EU 2017Conservation of Atlantic Tunas: International Measures Become EU Law
  2. European Healthy Lifestyle AllianceCan Statin Therapy Interfere With a Physically Active Lifestyle?
  3. EPSUOn Public Services Day, Stop Austerity! Workers Need a Pay Rise!
  4. EGBAOnline Gambling: The EU Court Rejects Closed Licensing Regimes In Member States
  5. World VisionFaces of Today, Leaders of Tomorrow: Join the Debate on Violence Against Girls - 29 June
  6. ECR GroupThe EU Must Better Protect Industry from Unfair Competition
  7. Malta EU 2017Better Protection for Workers From Cancer-Causing Substances
  8. EPSUAfter 9 Years of Austerity Europe's Public Sector Workers Deserve a Pay Rise!
  9. Dialogue PlatformGlobalised Religions and the Dialogue Imperative. Join the Debate!
  10. UNICEFEU Trust Fund Contribution to UNICEF's Syria Crisis Response Reaches Nearly €200 Million
  11. EUSEW17Bringing Buildings Into the Circular Economy. Discuss at EU Sustainable Energy Week
  12. European Healthy Lifestyle AllianceCan an Ideal Body Weight Lead to Premature Death?