Wednesday

26th Jun 2019

Germany bound to apply EU rules to Russia pipeline

  • Nord Stream 2 is controversial because eastern EU states, such as Poland, fear Russia could use it cut off supplies to them for the sake of political blackmail (Photo: nord-stream2.com)

Germany will need to make sure that EU rules are being followed by Russia's controversial Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline currently under construction, it was decided in negotiations between EU institutions on Tuesday evening (12 February).

The negotiators agreed that the EU's energy market rules will also apply to pipelines coming in from third countries.

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

Those EU rules include anti-monopoly safeguards, like a requirement for what is called ownership unbundling: that is, the pipeline cannot be operated by the same company that is selling the gas.

Russia's Gazprom, which is the sole owner of the Nord Stream 2 project, does not fulfil these criteria.

Nord Stream 2 is controversial because eastern EU states, such as Poland, fear Russia could use it cut off supplies to them for the sake of political blackmail.

It also bypasses Ukraine, which fears Russia might escalate military aggression there because the German pipeline would make Ukraine's EU gas transit pipelines obsolete.

Formally, the political deal struck on Tuesday was an amendment to the gas directive, which did not yet apply to pipelines coming in from third countries.

"It fills a gap in the EU's legislative framework in the energy field and will ensure that the rules of the Energy Union are applied consistently across the EU," said Anton Anton, energy minister of Romania, which currently chairs meetings in the Council of the EU, where member states meet.

But when the European Commission proposed to amend the gas directive in November 2017, it was pretty clear the legal change was aimed at Nord Stream 2, which is controversial for political and security reasons.

At Wednesday's daily press conference, the commission's chief spokesman, Margaritis Schinas, referred to the compromise as being "on Nord Stream 2 and the gas directive".

Centre-right Polish MEP Jerzy Buzek said on Wednesday that making Nord Stream 2 fall under EU rules "has always been the main goal of the European Parliament", something with several fellow MEPs echoed.

Break up Gazprom monopoly?

"Russia's gas giant Gazprom will now have to comply with EU rules and break up its monopoly," said German Green MEP Reinhard Buetikofer.

"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," added Danish Liberal MEP Morten Helveg Petersen.

The final text of the amended directive is yet to be made public, which means that it is unknown whether the directive contains any loopholes.

Commission spokeswoman Anca Paduraru had few details to share on Wednesday.

"What I can tell you for now is that the agreement text confirms that the pipelines between member states and third countries will need to be operated based on EU rules," she said.

"It endorses the approach fostered by France and Germany to limit the application of the directive to pipeline in the territorial sea, and not in the whole exclusive economic zone, and to make the member states where the first connection with the EU network is located responsible for the application of the directive."

While the European Parliament already agreed on its position on the bill in April 2018, negotiations for the directive had been stuck in the legislative pipeline in the council.

Last week however the council reached a common position.

However, commission spokesman Schinas was keen to stress that the compromise was not a pure Franco-German outcome.

"I have seen this agreement being presented as a France-German big deal," said Schinas.

"May I respectfully remind everybody that this was a Commission proposal - a Juncker commission proposal."

"It's always sexy to present things happening because of the Franco-German consensus, but this happened because we put it on the table," he said, adding that the commission had "paternity rights" to the amended directive.

It remains to be seen whether the amended legislation will deliver what the commission had aimed for.

If Gazprom does not adhere to all EU rules and Germany decides to ignore it, the commission can start an infringement procedure.

However, this legal route would mean that it can take a long time before the commission could make Germany reverse course.

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.

Merkel: Nord Stream 2 is 'political'

Germany has for the first time acknowledged concerns on the "political" and "strategic" aspects of Russia's Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline.

Opinion

Nord Stream II aims to undermine Energy Union

The Gazprom pipeline simply does not have any commercial bearing. Rather, it undermines the functioning and effectiveness of the European Energy Union and circumvents Ukraine for gas transits - paving the way for further Russian strong-arming in the region.

Opinion

Nord Stream 2: Gazprom's desperate moves

Gazprom's argument - that the application of the directive is discriminatory and retroactive - looks more like a desperate grasping at legal straws.

Analysis

EU purchase of US gas serves dual purpose

The EU wants to diversify the sources where it gets its natural gas from - while importing more liquefied natural gas (LNG) from the US could also slightly appease Donald Trump.

News in Brief

  1. EU warns Turkey as 'Gezi Park' trials begin
  2. EU universities to share students, curricula
  3. Migrant rescue ship loses Human Rights Court appeal
  4. Denmark completes social democrat sweep of Nordics
  5. Johnson offers 'do or die' pledge on Brexit
  6. Weber indirectly attacks Macron in newspaper op-ed
  7. EU to sign free trade deal with Vietnam
  8. EU funding of air traffic control 'largely unnecessary'

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. International Partnership for Human RightsEU-Uzbekistan Human Rights Dialogue: EU to raise key fundamental rights issues
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNo evidence that social media are harmful to young people
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersCanada to host the joint Nordic cultural initiative 2021
  4. Vote for the EU Sutainable Energy AwardsCast your vote for your favourite EUSEW Award finalist. You choose the winner of 2019 Citizen’s Award.
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersEducation gets refugees into work
  6. Counter BalanceSign the petition to help reform the EU’s Bank
  7. UNICEFChild rights organisations encourage candidates for EU elections to become Child Rights Champions
  8. UNESDAUNESDA Outlines 2019-2024 Aspirations: Sustainability, Responsibility, Competitiveness
  9. Counter BalanceRecord citizens’ input to EU bank’s consultation calls on EIB to abandon fossil fuels
  10. International Partnership for Human RightsAnnual EU-Turkmenistan Human Rights Dialogue takes place in Ashgabat
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNew campaign: spot, capture and share Traces of North
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersLeading Nordic candidates go head-to-head in EU election debate

Latest News

  1. EU moves to end car-testing 'confidentiality clause'
  2. EU parliament gives extra time for leaders on top jobs
  3. Europe's rights watchdog lifts Russia sanctions
  4. EU-Vietnam trade deal a bad day for workers' rights
  5. EU 'special envoy' going to US plan for Palestine
  6. Polish judicial reforms broke EU law, court says
  7. EU study: no evidence of 'East vs West' food discrimination
  8. Russia tried to stir up Irish troubles, US think tank says

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Secretary General: Nordic co-operation must benefit everybody
  2. Platform for Peace and JusticeMEP Kati Piri: “Our red line on Turkey has been crossed”
  3. UNICEF2018 deadliest year yet for children in Syria as war enters 9th year
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic commitment to driving global gender equality
  5. International Partnership for Human RightsMeet your defender: Rasul Jafarov leading human rights defender from Azerbaijan
  6. UNICEFUNICEF Hosts MEPs in Jordan Ahead of Brussels Conference on the Future of Syria
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic talks on parental leave at the UN
  8. International Partnership for Human RightsTrial of Chechen prisoner of conscience and human rights activist Oyub Titiev continues.
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic food policy inspires India to be a sustainable superpower
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersMilestone for Nordic-Baltic e-ID
  11. Counter BalanceEU bank urged to free itself from fossil fuels and take climate leadership
  12. Intercultural Dialogue PlatformRoundtable: Muslim Heresy and the Politics of Human Rights, Dr. Matthew J. Nelson

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us