Wednesday

22nd Aug 2018

Focus

Nordic states want EU decision on Russia pipeline

Nordic leaders have called for an EU-level decision on whether Nord Stream 2, a Russian-German gas pipeline, should go ahead.

The appeal, issued in Copenhagen on Wednesday (2 November), comes amid fears that Russia and Germany could alter the route to avoid objections or could bully individual states into giving the green light.

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 is to pass through Swedish and Finnish zones and through Denmark's maritime territory (Photo: Nord Stream)

The Swedish prime minister, Stefan Loefven, said the European Commission should undertake a sweeping analysis of the project.

"I think it’s important for us to say to the European Commission: ‘You need to look into that, from the perspective of the European Union, our energy union, energy independence, and the Ukraine situation. It is important to regard this project from a European perspective, so the European Commission has an important task,” he said.

Danish leader Lars Loekke Rasmussen also called for a commission “assessment”.

“There is a geopolitical dimension to this and for that reason we need the commission's assessment. We raised that question at the last European summit and we … have to ask the commission to come up with that assessment,” he said.

Loefven and Loekke Rasmussen spoke after a meeting of the Nordic Council, a regional club, which, this year, also invited the Baltic states to its event.

Estonia's prime minister Taavi Roivas said in Copenhagen that the EU must "decide whether this project is in accordance to it's principles".

The Visegrad countries - the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, and Slovakia - also want the EU to take shared responsibility on Nord Stream 2.

Speaking for the group, Polish leader Beata Szydlo said after the last EU summit in October: “We expect the commission to fulfil its duties, to defend the directives that we passed, to check whether all the norms, conditions for such an investment are being respected”.

Dividing line

Nord Stream 2 is to stretch for 1,200 kilometres under the Baltic Sea from Russia to the German coast near Greifswald.

It is majority-owned by the Russian state, via its energy champion, Gazprom, and involves EU energy firms Basf, E.On, Engie, OMV, and Shell.

If built, it would make Germany into the main EU entry point for Russian gas.

It would also, its critics say, harm energy security in eastern Europe, divide EU member states, and amount to economic warfare on Ukraine, which currently transits Russian gas to the EU.

The pipeline is to pass through Finnish and Swedish maritime economic zones and through Danish territorial waters, giving each of them a say on its future.

The Nordic leaders voiced concern that if one of them objected, then Russia would alter the route to avoid the problem.

Baltic states and Poland also fear that if there is no joint EU position on Nord Stream 2 then Germany and Russia could bully individual states to give their approval.

Nord Stream 2 formally applied for Sweden’s permit on 16 September.

It is expected to ask Denmark and Finland for their permits early next year.

Legal constraints

Estonia’s Roivas, in Copenhagen on Wednesday, said the pipeline had a “clearly political dimension”.

Sweden’s Loefven said legal constraints would prevent his government from taking a political decision, however.

"We need to adhere to the international law and Swedish law which limits our possibilities to influence the decision dramatically”, he said.

Loekke Rasmussen, the Danish leader, said “we’ll have to deal with it in the same way” as Sweden.

The Danish foreign minister, Kristian Jensen, said: “Nord Stream 2 is right now planned to go through Danish waters, but it is possible to move it outside to international waters so that no country can actually block it”.

“This is a European matter and … we need to have discussions at the level of the European Council on whether Nord Stream 2 is aligned with EU policy on energy”, he said.

The EU commission has, in past remarks, criticised the Russian project.

It has also said that, if it is built, then it must comply with EU energy, competition, and environmental laws, including in its off-shore parts in Nordic jurisdictions.

No assessment

Its legal services have drafted internal memos on its compatibility with EU legislation.

It has plans to draft what one EU source called “a 360-degree, all-encompassing statement saying that we like or dislike it”, however.

The source said the commission does not give overall "green lights or red lights" on private sector projects.

Speaking to EUobserver in the margins of a conference in Bratislava last Friday, Maros Sefcovic, the commission vice-president dealing with energy, also said the project was hard to pin down in legal terms.

He said a definitive assessment would be “too complicated” because the Nord Stream 2 consortium kept changing its plans.

A spokesman for the consortium, Jens Mueller, told EUobserver on Thursday that, according to its analysis, the EU had no say on the matter.

“The authorities of the countries under whose jurisdiction the project falls (Finland, Sweden, Denmark, Germany, and Russia) will ensure full compliance with applicable EU law, national legislation and international conventions”, he said.

“It is the competent national regulators who are in charge of the regulation of the EU’s internal market for gas”, he said.

South Stream 2?

Russia, last year, abandoned plans to build a similar pipeline, called South Stream, to Bulgaria after the commission said it must abide by the EU’s “third energy package”.

The EU law says that gas suppliers, such as Gazprom, cannot fully control the infrastructure that ships their fuel.

Nord Stream 2’s Mueller said: “Well-established precedent cases and a close analysis of applicable laws allow only the following conclusion: Nord Stream 2 does not fall within the scope of application of the third energy package”.

Poland’s competition authorities, in July, struck a lone blow against the pipe.

Their statement of objection, that the pipeline would restrict energy competition in Europe, temporarily spooked the Western firms taking part.

Gazprom said the project would still go ahead and that its “foreign counterparts” would find other “options to join the project”, however.

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.

Column / Crude World

Nord Stream 2: The elephant in the room

The European Commission should provide a thorough impact assessment of Nord Stream 2, a project that appears to go against all of its Energy Union objectives.

News in Brief

  1. EU Commission: efforts 'ongoing' over Italian migrant ship
  2. Italy allows boat with migrants to dock
  3. France's Total pulls out of Iran due to US sanctions
  4. Trump accuses EU and China of currency manipulation
  5. Swedish conservatives regret unsuccessful integration policies
  6. Record high measles cases hit Europe
  7. Swedish politician declares war on media
  8. Italy threatens to return migrants to Libya

Opinion

'Nativism' and the upcoming Swedish and Bavarian elections

Swedes head to the polls in September in a national parliamentary election, while Bavarians vote in October in a state election. In both elections, voters' nativist sentiments may well help determine the outcome.

Supported by

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. ACCACompany Law Package: Making the Best of Digital and Cross Border Mobility,
  2. IPHRCivil Society Worried About Shortcomings in EU-Kyrgyzstan Human Rights Dialogue
  3. UNESDAThe European Soft Drinks Industry Supports over 1.7 Million Jobs
  4. Mission of China to the EUJointly Building Belt and Road Initiative Leads to a Better Future for All
  5. IPHRCivil society asks PACE to appoint Rapporteur to probe issue of political prisoners in Azerbaijan
  6. ACCASocial Mobility – How Can We Increase Opportunities Through Training and Education?
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersEnergy Solutions for a Greener Tomorrow
  8. UNICEFWhat Kind of Europe Do Children Want? Unicef & Eurochild Launch Survey on the Europe Kids Want
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Countries Take a Stand for Climate-Smart Energy Solutions
  10. Mission of China to the EUChina: Work Together for a Better Globalisation
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNordics Could Be First Carbon-Negative Region in World
  12. European Federation of Allergy and AirwaysLife Is Possible for Patients with Severe Asthma

Latest News

  1. 'Final phase' Brexit talks to go on 'continuously'
  2. UK sanctions appeal risks highlighting EU divisions
  3. Wind delays launch of European wind-mapping satellite
  4. Greece 'normal' again after end of crisis, EU says
  5. Putin strikes blow against Russia's isolation by Europe
  6. EU-China cooperation on CO2 storage lost in limbo
  7. Greece exits bailouts, but difficult path ahead
  8. EU gets record response on 'summertime' consultation

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. PKEE - Polish Energy AssociationCommon-Sense Approach Needed for EU Energy Reform
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region to Lead in Developing and Rolling Out 5G Network
  3. Mission of China to the EUChina-EU Economic and Trade Relations Enjoy a Bright Future
  4. ACCAEmpowering Businesses to Engage with Sustainable Finance and the SDGs
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersCooperation in Nordic Electricity Market Considered World Class Model
  6. FIFAGreen Stadiums at the 2018 Fifa World Cup
  7. Mission of China to the EUChina and EU Work Together to Promote Sustainable Development
  8. Counter BalanceEuropean Ombudsman Requests More Lending Transparency from European Investment Bank
  9. FIFARecycling at the FIFA World Cup in Russia
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersOECD Report: Gender Equality Boosts GDP Growth in Nordic Region
  11. Centre Maurits Coppieters“Peace and Reconciliation Is a Process That Takes Decades” Dr. Anthony Soares on #Brexit and Northern Ireland
  12. Mission of China to the EUMEPs Positive on China’s New Measures of Opening Up

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Macedonian Human Rights MovementOld White Men are Destroying Macedonia by Romanticizing Greece
  2. Counter BalanceControversial EIB-Backed Project Under Fire at European Parliament
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersIncome Inequality Increasing in Nordic Countries
  4. European Jewish CongressEU Leaders to Cease Contact with Mahmoud Abbas Until He Apologizes for Antisemitic Comments
  5. International Partnership for Human RightsAnnual Report celebrates organization’s tenth anniversary
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Cooperation Needed on Green Exports and Funding
  7. Mission of China to the EUPremier Li Confirms China Will Continue to Open Up
  8. European Jewish CongressCalls on Brussels University to Revoke Decision to Honour Ken Loach
  9. Nordic Council of Ministers12 Recommendations for Nordic Leadership on Climate and Environment
  10. Macedonian Human Rights MovementOxford Professor Calls for an End to the Anti-Macedonian Name Negotiations
  11. ACCAPeople Who Speak-Up Should Feel Safe to Do So
  12. Mission of China to the EUProgress on China-EU Cooperation

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us