Swedes likely to back Gazprom plan to rent harbour area
Sweden's government said on Monday (30 January) it could not stop a Swedish port city from renting out part of its harbour to Russia to ease the construction of Nord Stream II, a planned gas pipeline that would connect Russia to Germany without the need to go through Ukraine.
Sweden's defence minister Peter Hultqvist is opposed to the gas project, which he considers a security concern. But the government lacks legal powers to stop Karlshamn, a small town in southern Sweden, from going ahead with its plans.
The local council is likely to back the proposal to store pipes for the Russian project when it meets on Tuesday.
Hultqvist said on Monday he stood by his judgement that Nord Stream 2 would affect Sweden negatively, but that the threats were "manageable".
"I have previously informed how Nord Stream 2 affects our authorities and the armed forces and that it affects negatively Sweden. It is a judgement that remains and we have taken a number of safety measures," Hultqvist said.
Measures include a strengthening the coastguard, the armed forces and customs, and tighter surveillance over the strategic Baltic port, which is located 50km from the key Karlskrona naval base.
"We have had a good dialogue and tried to find a common solution, and now we feel that we have reached that goal so I will propose that we approve the deal," said Per-Ola Mattsson, Karlshamn council chairman, who hails from the same Social Democratic party as Hultqvist.
The town has emphasised in talks with the government that it is already an important harbour for Russian marine traffic, with around 700 Russian cargo ships calling at the port each year. The municipality is not prepared to jeopardise this traffic.
Mattsson estimates the town stands to win €11 million and 30 jobs over three years from the construction of the pipeline.
The government plans to change Swedish law so that national security concerns will give it the right to re-examine decisions made at the municipal level. That would help to avoid similar cases in the future. But the right to local self-government is protected in Sweden's basic law.
Last year, the government managed to convince the region of Gotland, an island on the Baltic sea, not to lease its Slite harbour to Gazprom. On Monday, the government said that the Karlshamn case was less controversial than Slite, because the logistical models were different.
If all goes to plan, Nord Stream 2 will come online in 2019 and stretch from Russia to the German coast.
The project is mainly owned by the Russian state company Gazprom, but also involves EU energy firms Basf, E.On, Engie, OMV, and Shell.
A Dutch company, Wasco, would be in charge of construction in Karlshamn.