Saturday

4th Apr 2020

Divisive gas pipeline launched under EU banner

  • Selected EU leaders and Medvedev turn a giant spigot in Lubmin on Tuesday (Photo: nordstream.com)

The leaders of Germany, the Netherlands and Russia, the prime minister of France and the EU's energy commissioner have celebrated the launch of a new gas pipeline that some fear could be used to divide the EU.

The big personalities and around 500 other guests attended the opening ceremony of the Nord Stream pipeline in Lubmin, near the German-Polish border on Tuesday (8 November).

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

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

... or subscribe as a group

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said: "This is a long-awaited event which signifies the strengthening of relations between Russia and the European Union." German Chancellor Angela Merkel called it "a strategic project that is exemplary for the co-operation between the European Union and Russia."

In numbers, the Nord Stream pipeline is to pump 27.5 billion cubic metres a year of Russian gas under the Baltic Sea to Germany, rising to 55 billion when it is fully operational next year - equivalent to 10 percent of EU consumption.

It cost €7.4 billion to build, is 1,224 km long and is expected to stay in service for 50 years.

Russia's Gazprom is the main shareholder on 51 percent, alongside Dutch, French and German firms. The gas itself will be sold mainly in Belgium, the Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Germany, the Netherlands and the UK.

Despite the European Commission, Germany and Russia's depiction of Nord Stream as an "EU project" the pipeline arouses deep mistrust in the Baltic states and in Poland.

Lithuanian and Polish diplomats say if Russia in future decides to cut off gas to former Communist countries in eastern Europe for political reasons, Nord Stream means Germany would not suffer and the EU would be less likely to show a united front.

Vilnius in September asked the European Commission to raid Gazprom offices in the EU on suspicion of anti-competitive behaviour in the knowledge the window is closing for similar action in future. "Right now, they cannot cut gas to Lithuania to punish us for this decision without also cutting off [the Russian exclave of] Kaliningrad. But once Kaliningrad is connected to Nord Stream, this will no longer be the case," a Lithuanian source said.

The pipeline has even more severe implications for the independence of Belarus and Ukraine, whose economies rely heavily on transit fees from pre-Nord-Stream pipelines.

No leaders from the former Communist and Soviet EU countries went to the Lubmin event. But two other VIP guests - Nord Stream consortium managing director Matthias Warnig and the chairman of its shareholders' club Gerhard Schroeder - played a prominent role in the ceremony.

The two men embody the antipathy felt toward the project in eastern European capitals.

Schroeder is a personal friend of Russia's authoritarian leader Vladimir Putin and joined the Gazprom payroll a few days after using his previous position as German chancellor to sign off the Nord Stream deal. Warnig was, according to declassified files, a medal-winning lieutenant in the reviled East German secret police, the Stasi, in the 1970s and 1980s.

Russia frets over EU plans to link up Caspian gas fields

Moscow expressed its "disappointment" on Tuesday over EU plans to build a Trans-Caspian pipeline connecting large Turkmen gas reserves to Azerbaijan, offering an alternative to the Russian monopoly on gas transports from that region.

Shale gas tussle bubbling under EU surface

Heralded as an energy game-changer by supporters, perceived as environmentally pernicious by critics, shale gas is both controversial and increasingly on the European agenda.

Opinion

The press aren't doing their homework on 'costly' renewables

It is not decarbonisation or renewables that will cause electricity price rises in the future but the need to invest in replacing ageing power plants and grids, writes Stephane Bourgeois of the European Wind Energy Association.

In Saudi Arabia, contacting the EU is a crime

Women's rights activist Loujain al-Hathloul is facing trial. One of the allegations is contacting the EU delegation. Despite pressure from Brussels, Saudi Arabia remains unimpressed.

Opinion

Trump's 'plan' for Israel will go against EU values

As someone who has been personally targeted by Benjamin Netanyahu's incitement against Arabs and Palestinians, Christians, Muslims and Druze, I still believe that peace is possible. But Donald Trump's 'plan' will be a gift to Netanyahu's campaign.

China spy suspect worked for EU for 30 years

The former EU ambassador suspected by German prosecutors of spying for China was Gerhard Sabathil, according to EU officials speaking on condition of anonymity.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNESDAMaking Europe’s Economy Circular – the time is now
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersScottish parliament seeks closer collaboration with the Nordic Council
  3. UNESDAFrom Linear to Circular – check out UNESDA's new blog
  4. Nordic Council of Ministers40 years of experience have proven its point: Sustainable financing actually works
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic and Baltic ministers paving the way for 5G in the region
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersEarmarked paternity leave – an effective way to change norms

Latest News

  1. EU's 'Irini' Libya mission: Europe's Operation Cassandra
  2. Slovak army deployed to quarantine Roma settlements
  3. Lockdown: EU officials lobbied via WhatsApp and Skype
  4. EU: Athens can handle Covid outbreak at Greek camp
  5. New push to kick Orban's party out of centre-right EPP
  6. EU launches €100bn worker support scheme
  7. Court: Three countries broke EU law on migrant relocation
  8. Journalism hit hard by corona crisis

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us