Thursday

14th Dec 2017

Pipeline 'disinformation' prompts EU division

  • Mitov, Sefcovic, Birel, and Topolanek in Bratislava on Saturday (Photo: globsec.org)

The European Commission says plans to double the capacity of the Nord Stream gas pipeline sound bad for Europe, amid confusion on what Russia will really build.

Energy commissoner Maros Sefcovic gave his “preliminary” opinion on Nord Stream at Globsec, a security congress in Bratislava, on Saturday (20 June).

Thank you for reading EUobserver!

Subscribe now for a 30 day free trial.

  1. €150 per year
  2. or €15 per month
  3. Cancel anytime

EUobserver is an independent, not-for-profit news organization that publishes daily news reports, analysis, and investigations from Brussels and the EU member states. We are an indispensable news source for anyone who wants to know what is going on in the EU.

We are mainly funded by advertising and subscription revenues. As advertising revenues are falling fast, we depend on subscription revenues to support our journalism.

For group, corporate or student subscriptions, please contact us. See also our full Terms of Use.

If you already have an account click here to login.

  • Turkish Stream will replace South Stream, or not (Photo: wikipedia.org)

Russia currently sells gas to the EU via three routes: Nord Stream, under the Baltic Sea to Germany; Yamal, via Belarus; and via the Ukraine gas transit network (GTS).

Sefcovic said if doubling Nord Stream means the end of GTS, it would harm energy security “because it’d reduce transit from three lines to two”.

“On top of that, we would face a total gas imbalance in central Europe, because we’d suddenly have to transform transit countries [which pump GTS gas further west] into end-user countries [of double-Nord Stream] and we’d have enormous congestion down the road because the infrastructure isn’t ready for it”.

He added that it makes economic sense to modernise GTS instead.

“We already have infrastructure which is under-used, which we can refurbish, and which we’re accustomed to", he said.

Strangling Ukraine

Sefcovic spoke after Russia, last week, signed two non-binding memorandums.

The first, with EU firms E.ON, OMV, and Shell, is to double Nord Stream’s capacity from 55 billion cubic metres a year to 110. The second, with Greece, is to build a new pipe to connect south-east Europe to Turkey.

Both are designed to kill GTS.

Russian leader Vladimir Putin, last December, said he’ll stop Ukraine transit in 2020.

Part of the old Ukraine gas is to go via Nord Stream and the rest via Turkish Stream, a new pipe under the Black Sea to the Turkish-Greek border.

Turkish Stream replaces an earlier project, South Stream, under the Black Sea to Bulgaria, which Bulgaria put on ice when the commission said the contract, giving Russia full control, is against EU law.

The end of GTS would mean billions a year in lost transit fees for newly independent Ukraine, aggravating poverty and instability

It would also mean huge losses for EU transit states, especially Slovakia.

Confusion

The Nord Stream memo adds to confusion on Putin’s intentions.

There isn’t enough demand for double-Nord Stream, Yamal, GTS, and Turkish Stream.

But when Slovak PM Robert Fico went to Moscow on 1 June he was told different things.

Gazprom, the Putin-controlled gas firm, told him GTS supplies will stop in 2020. But Putin himself said "no final decision is yet fully made”.

The Bulgarian foreign minister, Daniel Mitov, told Globsec there’s no final decision on South Stream either.

“South Stream is not officially cancelled”, he said. “We keep asking the Russian side: ‘Are you actually cancelling South Stream, as announced by president Putin?’. There’s no answer. All options are open”.

For his part, Fatih Birol, the head of the International Energy Agency (IEA) in Paris, noted that Putin is also threatening to divert EU supplies to China.

“Some of the projects put on the table may be designed to improve the negotiating position of [Russia] … by showing European countries they have different options to choose from,” he told EUobserver.

Division

One Slovak diplomat, who asked not to be named, went further.

He compared Russia’s pipeline communications to its “disinformation” campaign on the Ukraine conflict.

“Some EU leaders keep meeting Putin and keep believing what he says. But he says different things to each of them and his actions don’t match his words,” he told this website.

A second Slovak diplomat said the confusion is causing division.

He described the Nord Stream memo as a “disaster” for EU solidarity because it looks as if Germany is putting its interests first.

Member states which stand to lose the most from a GTS cut-off, Hungary and Slovakia, are already critical of EU-Russia sanctions. Greece, which stands to gain from Turkish Stream, is also critical.

Mirek Topolanek, the former Czech PM, who now works for Eustream, a Slovak gas firm, added that the confusion is making Bulgaria less keen to invest in interconnectors - mini-pipes designed to reduce Russia-dependence by sharing gas inside the EU.

“I advise you not to fight old wars. The decision on South Stream is over. We have to decide how to realise north-south interconnectors”, he told Bulgaria's Mitov at Globsec.

But Mitov noted that if Turkish Stream goes ahead it’ll make him look silly.

“How am I going to explain to Bulgarian people why South Stream isn’t possible but Turkish Stream through Greece is possible?”, he said.

“We did everything to comply with EU rules [on South Stream] and we expect the same from everyone else. When it comes to solidarity, we need to sit down and talk very seriously about [EU] strategy”.

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?

Feature

Lebanon crisis overshadows EU aid for Syrian refugees

Lebanon hosts over one million Syrian refugees, and has received some €1bn in EU funds. Caught in a geo-political tug of war between Saudi Arabia and Iran, Lebanon's domestic politics have cast a longer shadow over its Syrian 'guests'.

EU complicit in Libyan torture, says Amnesty

The EU and its members states have signed up to 'Faustian pact' with Libyan authorities in the their effort to prevent migrant and refugee boat departures towards Italy, says Amnesty International.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Dialogue PlatformThe Gülen Community: Who to Believe - Politicians or Actions?" by Thomas Michel
  2. Plastics Recyclers Europe65% plastics recycling rate attainable by 2025 new study shows
  3. European Heart NetworkCommissioner Andriukaitis' Address to EHN on the Occasion of Its 25th Anniversary
  4. ACCACFOs Risk Losing Relevance If They Do Not Embrace Technology
  5. UNICEFMake the Digital World Safer for Children & Increase Access for the Most Disadvantaged
  6. European Jewish CongressWelcomes Recognition of Jerusalem as the Capital of Israel and Calls on EU States to Follow Suit
  7. Mission of China to the EUChina and EU Boost Innovation Cooperation Under Horizon 2020
  8. European Gaming & Betting AssociationJuncker’s "Political" Commission Leaves Gambling Reforms to the Court
  9. AJC Transatlantic InstituteAJC Applauds U.S. Recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s Capital City
  10. EU2017EEEU Telecom Ministers Reached an Agreement on the 5G Roadmap
  11. European Friends of ArmeniaEU-Armenia Relations in the CEPA Era: What's Next?
  12. Mission of China to the EU16+1 Cooperation Injects New Vigour Into China-EU Ties

Latest News

  1. Estonia completes two out of three priority digital bills
  2. EU countries are not 'tax havens', parliament says
  3. Tech firms' delays mean EU needs rules for online terror
  4. Slovak PM: Human rights are not a travel pass to EU
  5. British PM limps to EU capital after Brexit defeat
  6. US pleads for clarity on Brexit aviation 'black hole'
  7. Tusk migration note prompts institutional 'hysteria'
  8. Migration looms over summit, as Africa pledges fall short

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. EPSUEU Blacklist of Tax Havens Is a Sham
  2. EU2017EERole of Culture in Building Cohesive Societies in Europe
  3. ILGA EuropeCongratulations to Austria - Court Overturns Barriers to Equal Marriage
  4. Centre Maurits CoppietersCelebrating Diversity, Citizenship and the European Project With Fundació Josep Irla
  5. European Healthy Lifestyle AllianceUnderstanding the Social Consequences of Obesity
  6. Union for the MediterraneanMediterranean Countries Commit to Strengthening Women's Role in Region
  7. Bio-Based IndustriesRegistration for BBI JU Stakeholder Forum about to close. Last chance to register!
  8. European Heart NetworkThe Time Is Ripe for Simplified Front-Of-Pack Nutrition Labelling
  9. Counter BalanceNew EU External Investment Plan Risks Sidelining Development Objectives
  10. EU2017EEEAS Calls for Eastern Partnership Countries to Enter EU Market Through Estonia
  11. Dialogue PlatformThe Turkey I No Longer Know
  12. World Vision7 Million Children at Risk in the DRC: Donor Meeting to Focus on Saving More Lives