Sunday

24th Mar 2019

Germany still backs new Russia gas pipeline

  • Merkel's new coalition expected to press ahead with Nord Stream 2 (Photo: nord-stream2.com)

The latest Russia-Ukraine gas dispute has not dampened Germany's enthusiasm to build a new pipeline from Russia.

The pipeline, Nord Stream 2, was a "purely commercial project", Steffen Seibert, chancellor Angela Merkel's spokesman, said in Berlin on Monday (5 March), according to the Reuters news agency.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

  • Ukraine's Poroshenko (l): 'Times of Russia's gas blackmail over' (Photo: consilium.europa.eu)

He urged Russia not to use Nord Stream 2 to cut off Ukraine in future.

It was "in the interest of Germany and Europe that Ukraine continues to play a role as a transit country for Russian gas," he said.

He also criticised Russia's handling of the gas dispute, saying it had "caused irritation" in Berlin, Brussels, and further afield.

Seibert spoke after Russia, last week, refused to sell gas to Ukraine in a commercial disagreement, recalling the winter of 2009, when some EU states who imported Russian gas via Ukraine faced blackouts.

The situation, nine years down the line, has changed.

Russia has invaded south and east Ukraine, where it continues to wage low-intensity war.

But Ukraine and EU states have built infrastructure to share Russian gas shipped to the EU via Germany and Poland, making it harder for Russia to exert pressure on Ukraine.

"Shipments from the EU, from Poland, Slovakia, and Hungary have increased ... the shortfall is covered in full," Ukrainian president Petro Poroshenko said on Saturday.

"The times of Russia's gas blackmail are over," he added.

Russia's energy minister, Alexander Novak, also told EU energy commissioner Maros Sefcovic on Monday that "transit of gas to EU member states [via Ukraine] is not endangered".

He said the dispute could "take some time, [but] will not have immediate consequences on [EU] gas flows".

The situation arose after Russia refused to pay Ukraine a €2bn gas trade award granted by an arbitration tribunal in Stockholm.

It is unlikely to get out of hand, Stefan Meister, an expert at German think tank DGAP told EUobserver, because Russian leader Vladimir Putin had little to gain from escalation.

"They [the Russians] are finally earning money with the higher gas prices and the cold winter, which they really need. There are [Russian] elections and then the World soccer championship [in Russia] coming up. Putin doesn't need a substantial crisis with the EU at the moment," Meister said.

Critics of Nord Stream 2 have said that, if built, it would enable Russia to blackmail Ukraine and eastern EU states once again by concentrating supplies in one route to Germany.

"Gazprom … is not a gas company but a platform for Russian coercion. How much more evidence do German politicians need to cancel Nord Stream 2?," Anders Fogh Rsmussen, a Danish politician who used to be head of Nato and who now works as a consultant for Ukraine, said on Saturday.

DGAP's Meister said the latest Ukraine dispute would end up damaging confidence more in Ukraine than in Russia, no matter who was right, however.

"Everything stands for building Nord Stream 2, and the new/old Groko will support it," he said, referring to the new government coalition in Berlin.

"The situation in Ukraine will strengthen those groups [in Germany] who support Nord Stream 2 and Russia will use the argument that Ukraine made and makes problems and that we need Nord Stream 2," he said.

US warns on flare-up in Ukraine 'crisis'

Fighting in Ukraine escalated to "hellish" levels not seen since February amid warnings of a humanitarian catastrophe in the run-up to Christmas.

US yet to push on Nord Stream 2 sanctions

Washington would still like to block a planned gas pipeline between Russia and Germany but is not yet considering hitting companies involved in the project.

News in Brief

  1. EU leaders at summit demand more effort on disinformation
  2. Report: Corbyn to meet May on Monday for Brexit talks
  3. Petition against Brexit attracts 2.4m signatures
  4. Study: Brexit to cost EU citizens up to €40bn annually
  5. NGOs demand France halt Saudi arm sales
  6. Report: Germany against EU net-zero emissions target
  7. Former top EU official takes job at law firm
  8. Draft text of EU summit has Brexit extension until 22 May

Planned German coal exit boosts case for Nord Stream 2

German commission recommends phasing out coal power over the next 19 years - which will provide additional arguments to build the controversial Nord Stream 2 pipeline from Russia, which both the European Commission and the US have reservations about.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNew campaign: spot, capture and share Traces of North
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersLeading Nordic candidates go head-to-head in EU election debate
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Secretary General: Nordic co-operation must benefit everybody
  4. Platform for Peace and JusticeMEP Kati Piri: “Our red line on Turkey has been crossed”
  5. UNICEF2018 deadliest year yet for children in Syria as war enters 9th year
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic commitment to driving global gender equality
  7. International Partnership for Human RightsMeet your defender: Rasul Jafarov leading human rights defender from Azerbaijan
  8. UNICEFUNICEF Hosts MEPs in Jordan Ahead of Brussels Conference on the Future of Syria
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic talks on parental leave at the UN
  10. International Partnership for Human RightsTrial of Chechen prisoner of conscience and human rights activist Oyub Titiev continues.
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic food policy inspires India to be a sustainable superpower
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersMilestone for Nordic-Baltic e-ID

Latest News

  1. Italy takes China's new Silk Road to the heart of Europe
  2. What EU leaders agreed on climate - and what they mean
  3. Copyright and (another) new Brexit vote This WEEK
  4. EU avoids Brexit crash, sets new date for 12 April
  5. Campaigning commissioners blur the lines
  6. Slovakia puts squeeze on free press ahead of election
  7. EPP suspends Orban's Fidesz party
  8. Macron is confusing rigidity with strength

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us