Tuesday

22nd Oct 2019

Germany to keep final say on Russia pipeline

  • New Russian pipeline already being laid in Baltic Sea (Photo: gazprom.ru)

Germany alone will decide whether to enforce EU law on its new gas pipeline with Russia, after France caved in during last-minute talks on the issue.

The legal regime to be imposed on the pipeline, called Nord Stream 2, will come from the "territory and territorial sea of the member state [Germany] where the first interconnection point is located", EU diplomats agreed in Brussels on Friday (8 February).

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

  • Nord Stream 2 would concentrate 70 percent of Russian EU gas exports in Germany (Photo: wikipedia)

Previous wording of the new law on offshore pipelines had said EU single market rules had to be applied on the "territorial sea of the member states".

The redacted wording meant European laws would have automatically covered all offshore pipelines in EU seas.

That would have forced Russian firm Gazprom to surrender its monopoly on Nord Stream 2, destabilising the project's business model.

It would also have legally barred Russia from using it to impose gas cut-offs on Western states, such as Poland and Ukraine, in its neighbourhood.

Leaving Germany the option whether to impose the EU laws on Nord Stream 2 might see Gazprom keep its monopoly.

But a spokesman for French president Emmanuel Macron said Friday's compromise still meant there was "European control".

"The dependence on Russian gas worries us. For that reason, it is important to us to ensure European control so that this dependence does not increase," he said in Paris.

"There is no French-German crisis," he added.

"Regarding the gas directive, we have reached an agreement and this was possible because Germany and France worked closely together," German chancellor Angela Merkel said the same day in Berlin.

The compromise was a climb-down for France, which had indicated on Thursday that it would back the tougher wording on automatic EU rules on offshore pipes.

"The deal received broad consensus," an EU diplomat said, amid preparations to start talks on the final version of the gas law with MEPs.

Opponents of Nord Stream 2 include most eastern EU countries, the Nordic states, and the UK.

Some among them were happy about the Franco-German compromise despite its softer wording.

The new gas directive still gave the EU commission a bigger say in areas other than Nord Stream 2, for instance, on future gas contracts between member states and non-EU countries such as Russia.

Friday's deal also meant the directive was finally moving toward adoption, after France and Germany had blocked it since November 2017.

"For a long time, the positions were quite diverse. Now that there's a compromise, this will one way or another reinforce the commission's [oversight] role," a diplomat from one anti-Nord Stream 2 EU country said.

The deal "allowed some [German] autonomy or specific national interests to be taken into account" on Nord Stream 2, he noted.

But it was "too early" to judge how Germany would wield its privilege, the EU diplomat added, amid divisions on the pipeline in Merkel's government.

Nord Stream 2 is to concentrate 70 percent of Russian gas sales to the EU in Germany.

Its opponents, including the US, say Russia has a track record of using gas-cut offs to "blackmail" its neighbours.

They also say it might embolden Russian aggression in east Ukraine, which Russia invaded in 2014, by making Ukraine's EU gas transit pipelines obsolete.

"If we want to have more strategic autonomy in this environment, then why should we make an exception on energy security?," the Nord Stream 2-critical EU diplomat said.

EU leaders recently agreed to aim for "strategic autonomy" in foreign policy and military terms, amid Franco-German plans for joint EU armed forces.

The US has threatened to impose sanctions on Anglo-Dutch, Austrian, French, and German energy firms who co-financed Nord Stream 2.

It has also posted troops as part of a Nato battalion to Poland to deter Russian aggression in wider Europe.

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.

Macron warned on danger of Balkans veto

France's veto on North Macedonia enlargement will endanger the Serbia-Kosovo peace process, a senior EU official has warned, but diplomats do not expect Macron to change his mind.

EU countries to halt arms sales to Turkey

EU states have agreed to stop arms sales to Turkey over its invasion of Syria, marking a nadir in relations with their Nato ally. In response, Ankara mocked the decision as a "joke".

News in Brief

  1. MEPs criticise Juncker over climate and tax policies
  2. Juncker defends commission record on Greek crisis
  3. Croatian MEP criticises EU parliament for trusting Šuica
  4. Brexit is waste of time and energy, says Juncker
  5. Abortion and same-sex marriage become legal in Northern Ireland
  6. Germany wants internationally controlled zone in Syria
  7. EU parliament refuses to debate Catalonia
  8. Four businessmen charged in Slovak journalist murder

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

Latest News

  1. MPs vote on Johnson's latest push for Brexit deal
  2. Macron breaks Balkans promise in quest for EU dominance
  3. Snap elections in North Macedonia after EU rejection
  4. UK opposition MPs attack new Brexit deal
  5. Deep divisions on display over post-Brexit EU budget
  6. Juncker: 'Historic mistake' against Balkan EU hopefuls
  7. EU leaders spent just 12 minutes on climate
  8. Crunch Brexit vote in UK This WEEK

Stakeholders' Highlights

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

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us