Saturday

21st Oct 2017

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.

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.

  • 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.

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.

Supported by

News in Brief

  1. Rajoy to trigger Article 155 on Saturday in Catalan crisis
  2. EU conducts unannounced inspection of German car firm
  3. Lithuania calls for new EU energy laws
  4. EU leaders aim for December for defence cooperation
  5. Juncker says hands tied on Russia pipeline
  6. Czechs set to elect billionaire Andrej Babis
  7. Italian regions hold referendums on more autonomy
  8. EU leaders refuse to mediate Catalonia conflict

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Mission of China to the EUPresident Xi Jinping Proposes Stronger Global Security Governance at Interpol Assembly
  2. European Friends of ArmeniaEU Engagement Could Contribute to Lasting Peace in Nagorno-Karabakh
  3. UNICEFViolence in Myanmar Driving 12,000 Rohingya Refugee Children Into Bangladesh Every Week
  4. European Jewish CongressBulgaria Applauded for Adopting the Working Definition of Antisemitism
  5. EU2017EENorth Korea Leaves Europe No Choice, Says Estonian Foreign Minister Sven Mikser
  6. Mission of China to the EUZhang Ming Appointed New Ambassador of the Mission of China to the EU
  7. International Partnership for Human RightsEU Should Seek Concrete Commitments From Azerbaijan at Human Rights Dialogue
  8. European Jewish CongressEJC Calls for New Austrian Government to Exclude Extremist Freedom Party
  9. CES - Silicones EuropeIn Healthcare, Silicones Are the Frontrunner. And That's a Good Thing!
  10. EU2017EEEuropean Space Week 2017 in Tallinn from November 3-9. Register Now!
  11. European Entrepreneurs CEA-PMEMobiliseSME Exchange Programme Open Doors for 400 Companies Across Europe
  12. CECEE-Privacy Regulation – Hands off M2M Communication!

Latest News

  1. The mysterious German behind Orban's Russian deals
  2. Mogherini urged to do more on Russian propaganda
  3. Turkey funding cuts signal EU mood shift
  4. Posted workers top EU agenda This Week
  5. Leaders lobby to host EU agencies at summit's margins
  6. Legal tweak could extend EU control on Russia pipeline
  7. Ukraine language law does not harm minorities
  8. EU begins preparations for Brexit trade talks

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. ILGA-EuropeHealth4LGBTI: Reducing Health Inequalities Experienced by LGBTI People
  2. EU2017EEEHealth: A Tool for More Equal Health
  3. Mission of China to the EUChina-EU Tourism a Key Driver for Job Creation and Enhanced Competitiveness
  4. CECENon-Harmonised Homologation of Mobile Machinery Costs € 90 Million per Year
  5. ILGA-EuropeMass Detention of Azeri LGBTI People - the LGBTI Community Urgently Needs Your Support
  6. European Free AllianceCatalans Have Won the Right to Have an Independent State
  7. ECR GroupBrexit: Delaying the Start of Negotiations Is Not a Solution
  8. EU2017EEPM Ratas in Poland: "We Enjoy the Fruits of European Cooperation Thanks to Solidarity"
  9. Mission of China to the EUChina and UK Discuss Deepening of Global Comprehensive Strategic Partnership
  10. European Healthy Lifestyle AllianceEHLA Joins Commissioners Navracsics, Andriukaitis and Hogan at EU Week of Sport
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Council Representative Office Opens in Brussels to Foster Better Cooperation
  12. UNICEFSocial Protection in the Contexts of Fragility & Forced Displacement