Monday

20th Jan 2020

Opinion

Nord Stream 2: A killer project

  • NS2, which will pass through Danish waters, is to be operational by 2019 (Photo: nord-stream.com)

Scholars of European affairs will one day judge how well EU institutions coped with crises.

However, speaking as an MEP, I must say it is unwise for the European Commission to try to play deaf, dumb and blind to certain serious developments in the real world.

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  • Follow the gas: Russian pipelines are instruments of political pressure (Photo: Wikipedia)

Drawing attention to one area, it is unwise to pretend that things are normal in the EU-Russia energy business.

The fact is that Russia’s gas pipelines, the little green men that it sent to Ukraine, the money it gives to populist parties in our member states and its anti-EU propaganda are all part of the same programme. The fact is that Russia is exerting great influence to bend, or even break, EU energy law.

One project that lacks principled scrutiny by the EU’s top institutions is the Nord Stream 2 (NS2) gas pipeline.

If it is built, by 2019, it would duplicate existing pipes under the Baltic Sea from Russia to Germany and its implications would be far wider than many people think.

I would like to hear commission president Jean-Claude Juncker take a clear stand on NS2.

But I myself call it a killer project because I believe it is part of a programme to destroy European unity.

If it is built, the EU would become extremely dependent on a single gas supplier - Gazprom, an entity under the full control of Russian leader Vladimir Putin.

Europe already imports 39 percent of its gas from Russia. After NS2, 80 percent of Russian gas imports would be concentrated in one route. In Germany itself, the share of Russian gas would increase from 40 percent to 60 percent.

Beyond Germany, 12 EU member states depend on Russia for 75 percent or more of their gas. After NS2, the level of their dependence would also go up.

I call it a killer project because it has no commercial purpose, whatever its lobbyists say.

Independent energy experts agree that there is no market logic for investing €20 billion in new Baltic pipelines. Nord Stream I, which is already in operation, uses less than half of its capacity.

NS2 was never about the energy business, it was always energy politics.

It aims to split and destabilise the EU, to harm individual member states and to degrade Ukraine, which would be eliminated as the main Russia-EU gas transit route.

This is why Ukraine and all other central and eastern European countries are against the Russian-German project.

Cui bono?

It is obvious who would stand to gain from splitting the EU into gas partners and gas slaves - Russia. It is less obvious why Germany is getting involved.

It is also interesting what Denmark’s official position will be, knowing that NS2 will pass through Danish waters.

NS2 contradicts the European Energy Union - a policy of diversification of energy sources and suppliers.

We need the energy union to guarantee a fair gas price for all and to enable imports from the wider world, for instance via liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminals.

Some have been built in Spain and in my home country, Lithuania. We have an LNG terminal in the port of Klaipeda and an LNG vessel named Independence. “Independence" is the key word here.

The Juncker commission made big promises on creating a free and secure energy market. It has yet to deliver.

NS2 is a killer project because it shows that Schroederism is back in Europe.

I am talking about the former German chancellor, Gerhard Schroeder’s policy of putting Russian money first. It risks making Germany, one of the most powerful EU states, prone to Russian manipulation.

You hear Schroederism from people in chancellor Angela Merkel’s cabinet.

You sometimes hear it from the chancellor herself. Merkel recently spoke out in defence of EU energy security, but she also defended the commercial merit of NS2.

Shell game

There is no such merit. Behind Gazprom, a giant shell firm, there is only Putinism.

There is no easy way to stop NS2. Two big states are building it and the ones who will pay the price are smaller.

Brussels is being squeezed by Moscow and Berlin.

But for all of Russia and Germany’s influence, if NS2 contradicts EU single market law - specifically, the so called third energy package - then Juncker’s commission must call a spade a spade.

Because of the sensitivity of the issue, a group of independent jurists should also provide its own legal analysis of the project. I will be demanding this as a member of the European Parliament.

When strategic decisions are being made, but political courage and EU values are lacking, the law is our last line of defence.

Petras Austrevicius is a Lithuanian MEP in the liberal Alde group

Disclaimer

The views expressed in this opinion piece are the author's, not those of EUobserver.

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