Friday

18th Oct 2019

EU Commission could get say on Russia gas pipeline

  • First Nord Stream 2 pipes, made by German firm Europipe, arrived in Mukran, Germany, last October (Photo: Nord Stream 2 / Axel Schmidt)

EU states have given initial backing for the European Commission to negotiate the legal model of the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline with Russia.

Pablo Micallef, a spokesman for the Maltese EU presidency, told EUobserver that “some 13” member states spoke out on the plan when EU energy ministers met for informal talks in Brussels on Monday.

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

  • Sefcovic was "optimistic" about getting the mandate formalised (Photo: European Commission)

The incoming Estonian EU presidency is now expected to convene a working group to take things forward.

The Danish energy minister, Lars Christian Lilleholt, who was among the 13 EU backers, said: “I’m very satisfied. It was the best thing that could have come out of the meeting”.

The mandate will have to be formally approved later down the line in a “reinforced qualified majority” vote by member states, a higher than usual threshold of 72 percent of EU countries representing 65 percent of its population.

Maros Sefcovic, the EU energy commissioner who drafted the proposal, told the Reuters news agency: “I’m definitely optimistic about getting the [formal] mandate, but I know this is just the beginning of the debate."

Nord Stream 2 is to concentrate 70 percent of Russian gas supplies to Europe in one route to Germany under the Baltic Sea.

But its critics, which include the Nordic states, the Baltic countries, Poland, and the US, say it would harm EU energy security and undermine Ukraine, a Western ally, by making Ukraine’s transit pipes obsolete.

EU laws

Anna-Kaisa Itkonen, the Commission’s energy spokeswoman, told EUobserver on Tuesday that the Commission wanted to talk to Russia on whether the offshore part of Nord Stream 2 should be covered by the EU’s so-called third energy package.

That EU law would oblige Russian state firm Gazprom to open up its Nord Stream 2 monopoly to EU competitors - a demand which led Russia to stop a previous project, the South Stream pipeline under the Black Sea to Bulgaria.

But Itkonen said the talks would “not [be] about a [Commission] veto, it is not about the future of the pipeline, not about the Commission approving it or not”.

She said the Commission-Russia talks would be designed to give “legal certainty” on Nord Stream 2 and that they would be “nothing spectacular or extraordinary” because EU officials had held similar discussions with “third countries” on other projects.

The Nord Stream 2 regulatory framework is currently being negotiated between Germany and Russia.

German, Austrian, French, and Anglo-Dutch firms - Uniper, Wintershall, OMV, Engie, and Shell - are to take part in the project, with Germany and Austria keen to press ahead.

Neither the German nor the Austrian minister spoke out on Monday, EU sources told Reuters, but Germany and Austria recently attacked the US over its threat to impose sanctions on Nord Stream 2 investors.

“We decide who supplies us with energy and how they do it”, the German and Austrian foreign ministers said in a joint statement on 15 June.

Ukraine unhappy

Pavlo Klimkin, the Ukrainian foreign minister, told Reuters in Paris on Monday that Nord Stream 2 "would have disastrous consequences for the energy security of the European Union and would make the EU dependent on one source."

"Maybe some companies will benefit for the time being, but in the long-run it will lead nowhere”, he said.

He added that there was no progress on Russia ending hostilities in east Ukraine.

"How can you trust Russia in setting up a unique source of gas supply?”, he said, referring to broader EU and US concerns over Russia’s aggressive behaviour toward neighbouring states.

Magazine

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.

EU still giving gas projects 'fast-track' status

The European Commission published on Friday a list of projects of common interest, which receive preferential treatment. Environmental lobbyists accuse the Commission of trying to fool the public with number games.

EU envoy sheds light on weird US diplomacy

Remarks to Congress by the US ambassador to the EU, Gordon Sondland, have shed light on the unusual nature of American diplomacy under president Donald Trump.

News in Brief

  1. Macron: Nato's inability to react to Turkey a 'mistake'
  2. EU: US can expect counter measures after tariff move
  3. Almost 7,500 people forcibly returned to Libya in 2019
  4. Puigdemont released after responding to arrest warrant
  5. Commission: Facebook's Libra needs international approach
  6. Italian PM: denial of accession talks a 'historic mistake'
  7. Catalan president blames clashes on 'infiltrators'
  8. US imposes €6.7bn new tariffs on European products

Column

These are the crunch issues for the 2019-2024 EU commission

These developments will largely determine who will be running the world in the coming decades and perhaps generations. If the Europeans can't find an answer over the five years, they will be toast. And we haven't even mentioned climate change.

Opinion

Time to pay attention to Belarus

Belarus may be hosting the European Games, but Vladimir Putin is not playing games when it comes to Belarus' independence. The West needs to get serious as well.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersBrussels welcomes Nordic culture
  2. UNESDAUNESDA appoints Nicholas Hodac as Director General
  3. UNESDASoft drinks industry co-signs Circular Plastics Alliance Declaration
  4. FEANIEngineers Europe Advisory Group: Building the engineers of the future
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNew programme studies infectious diseases and antibiotic resistance
  6. UNESDAUNESDA reduces added sugars 11.9% between 2015-2017
  7. International Partnership for Human RightsEU-Uzbekistan Human Rights Dialogue: EU to raise key fundamental rights issues
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersNo evidence that social media are harmful to young people
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersCanada to host the joint Nordic cultural initiative 2021
  10. Vote for the EU Sutainable Energy AwardsCast your vote for your favourite EUSEW Award finalist. You choose the winner of 2019 Citizen’s Award.
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersEducation gets refugees into work
  12. Counter BalanceSign the petition to help reform the EU’s Bank

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNICEFChild rights organisations encourage candidates for EU elections to become Child Rights Champions
  2. UNESDAUNESDA Outlines 2019-2024 Aspirations: Sustainability, Responsibility, Competitiveness
  3. Counter BalanceRecord citizens’ input to EU bank’s consultation calls on EIB to abandon fossil fuels
  4. International Partnership for Human RightsAnnual EU-Turkmenistan Human Rights Dialogue takes place in Ashgabat
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNew campaign: spot, capture and share Traces of North
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersLeading Nordic candidates go head-to-head in EU election debate
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Secretary General: Nordic co-operation must benefit everybody
  8. Platform for Peace and JusticeMEP Kati Piri: “Our red line on Turkey has been crossed”
  9. UNICEF2018 deadliest year yet for children in Syria as war enters 9th year
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic commitment to driving global gender equality
  11. International Partnership for Human RightsMeet your defender: Rasul Jafarov leading human rights defender from Azerbaijan
  12. UNICEFUNICEF Hosts MEPs in Jordan Ahead of Brussels Conference on the Future of Syria

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us