Thursday

26th May 2022

Divisive gas pipeline launched under EU banner

  • Selected EU leaders and Medvedev turn a giant spigot in Lubmin on Tuesday (Photo: nordstream.com)

The leaders of Germany, the Netherlands and Russia, the prime minister of France and the EU's energy commissioner have celebrated the launch of a new gas pipeline that some fear could be used to divide the EU.

The big personalities and around 500 other guests attended the opening ceremony of the Nord Stream pipeline in Lubmin, near the German-Polish border on Tuesday (8 November).

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said: "This is a long-awaited event which signifies the strengthening of relations between Russia and the European Union." German Chancellor Angela Merkel called it "a strategic project that is exemplary for the co-operation between the European Union and Russia."

In numbers, the Nord Stream pipeline is to pump 27.5 billion cubic metres a year of Russian gas under the Baltic Sea to Germany, rising to 55 billion when it is fully operational next year - equivalent to 10 percent of EU consumption.

It cost €7.4 billion to build, is 1,224 km long and is expected to stay in service for 50 years.

Russia's Gazprom is the main shareholder on 51 percent, alongside Dutch, French and German firms. The gas itself will be sold mainly in Belgium, the Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Germany, the Netherlands and the UK.

Despite the European Commission, Germany and Russia's depiction of Nord Stream as an "EU project" the pipeline arouses deep mistrust in the Baltic states and in Poland.

Lithuanian and Polish diplomats say if Russia in future decides to cut off gas to former Communist countries in eastern Europe for political reasons, Nord Stream means Germany would not suffer and the EU would be less likely to show a united front.

Vilnius in September asked the European Commission to raid Gazprom offices in the EU on suspicion of anti-competitive behaviour in the knowledge the window is closing for similar action in future. "Right now, they cannot cut gas to Lithuania to punish us for this decision without also cutting off [the Russian exclave of] Kaliningrad. But once Kaliningrad is connected to Nord Stream, this will no longer be the case," a Lithuanian source said.

The pipeline has even more severe implications for the independence of Belarus and Ukraine, whose economies rely heavily on transit fees from pre-Nord-Stream pipelines.

No leaders from the former Communist and Soviet EU countries went to the Lubmin event. But two other VIP guests - Nord Stream consortium managing director Matthias Warnig and the chairman of its shareholders' club Gerhard Schroeder - played a prominent role in the ceremony.

The two men embody the antipathy felt toward the project in eastern European capitals.

Schroeder is a personal friend of Russia's authoritarian leader Vladimir Putin and joined the Gazprom payroll a few days after using his previous position as German chancellor to sign off the Nord Stream deal. Warnig was, according to declassified files, a medal-winning lieutenant in the reviled East German secret police, the Stasi, in the 1970s and 1980s.

Russia frets over EU plans to link up Caspian gas fields

Moscow expressed its "disappointment" on Tuesday over EU plans to build a Trans-Caspian pipeline connecting large Turkmen gas reserves to Azerbaijan, offering an alternative to the Russian monopoly on gas transports from that region.

Shale gas tussle bubbling under EU surface

Heralded as an energy game-changer by supporters, perceived as environmentally pernicious by critics, shale gas is both controversial and increasingly on the European agenda.

Opinion

The press aren't doing their homework on 'costly' renewables

It is not decarbonisation or renewables that will cause electricity price rises in the future but the need to invest in replacing ageing power plants and grids, writes Stephane Bourgeois of the European Wind Energy Association.

France aims for EU minimum-tax deal in June

EU Commission vice-president Valdis Dombrovskis said on Tuesday that Poland's recovery plan could be approved within a week. This could also help unblock Warsaw's reluctance to agree to the tax deal.

Opinion

When Reagan met Gorbachev — a history lesson for Putin

Neither Reagan nor Gorbachev achieved their goal at the famous Reykjavik summit of 1986. Despite that fact there are lessons that current leaders — particularly Vladimir Putin — could adopt from these two iconic leaders.

Opinion

Orbán's overtures to Moscow are distasteful and detrimental

Some Western European politicians are reviving the chimera of a negotiated settlement. None of this makes the current, half-hearted approach towards sanctioning Russia look better — nor does it shed any favourable light on the cravenness of Hungary's current government.

News in Brief

  1. Dutch journalists sue EU over banned Russia TV channels
  2. EU holding €23bn of Russian bank reserves
  3. Russia speeds up passport process in occupied Ukraine
  4. Palestinian civil society denounce Metsola's Israel visit
  5. Johnson refuses to resign after Downing Street parties report
  6. EU border police has over 2,000 agents deployed
  7. Dutch tax authorities to admit to institutional racism
  8. Rutte calls for EU pension and labour reforms

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic delegation visits Nordic Bridges in Canada
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersClear to proceed - green shipping corridors in the Nordic Region
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers agree on international climate commitments
  4. UNESDA - SOFT DRINKS EUROPEEfficient waste collection schemes, closed-loop recycling and access to recycled content are crucial to transition to a circular economy in Europe
  5. UiPathNo digital future for the EU without Intelligent Automation? Online briefing Link

Latest News

  1. EU summit will be 'unwavering' on arms for Ukraine
  2. Orbán's new state of emergency under fire
  3. EU parliament prevaricates on barring Russian lobbyists
  4. Ukraine lawyer enlists EU watchdog against Russian oil
  5. Right of Reply: Hungarian government
  6. When Reagan met Gorbachev — a history lesson for Putin
  7. Orbán oil veto to deface EU summit on Ukraine
  8. France aims for EU minimum-tax deal in June

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us