Monday

8th Aug 2022

Russia pipeline is security 'threat', US diplomat says

  • The Nord Stream II pipeline is designed to divide the EU, Shub said (Photo: turkstream.info)

Russia’s Nord Stream II gas pipeline is a threat to European security, a US diplomat has said, amid calls for the European Commission to intervene.

Adam Shub, the deputy US ambassador to the EU, in Brussels on Tuesday (6 December), mentioned the Russian-German project amid other instruments he said Russia was using to “create division” in Europe and to erode “shared transatlantic values”.

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

  • EU Commission has stalled on appeals for a legal assessment (Photo: European Commission)

He said the armed conflict in Ukraine was “just the front line” in the “malign action”, which extended also to the EU and the Western Balkans.

“There are [Russian] attempts to influence the policy debate, support for political parties, we know that, in the European Parliament, for NGOs … attempts to acquire assets on the energy front, Nord Stream - these are threats to Europe and to transatlantic security”, he said.

Shub spoke at a conference organised by the Ceps think tank.

The Nord Stream II pipeline is a Russian project to double gas supplies to Germany, bypassing Ukraine and central European states.

Shub’s reference to Russian funding of political parties comes after revelations that France’s anti-EU National Front party, for one, received Russian loans, and amid Russia’s anti-EU propaganda campaign.

His comments framed the gas pipeline as part of Russia’s bigger strategy to weaken the EU and to restore its former sphere of influence.

Commission assessment

Several EU states including the Baltic countries, Poland, and Slovakia have urged the EU commission to issue a legal assessment of whether Nord Stream II meets EU single market laws.

The anti-Nord Stream II bloc believes that if the commission flagged up problems, for instance, on Russia’s monopoly of the infrastructure, it might discourage private investors from taking part.

“If you’re putting your money somewhere, and you think it might not be kosher, you would think twice”, an EU source said.

Denmark and Sweden, at a meeting of EU energy ministers in Brussels on Monday, also called for the commission to intervene.

Such a legal assessment would be an unprecedented step, as the commission does not normally vet projects in advance.

It has stalled on its response for now, but two EU energy laws, which are currently under discussion, could give it new oversight powers on Nord Stream II and similar deals in future.

One bill would enable it to demand all information pertaining to major energy contracts between private firms, with the exception of price information.

Watchdog laws

The second one would task it with giving a priori assessments of whether major intergovernmental agreements, which govern projects such as Nord Stream II, meet EU law.

The latter bill could come “on stream” before 2019, and could still catch Nord Stream II in its net, if member states and MEPs can agree on the final wording swiftly.

The law on transparency of private contracts could be in force by 2020, in time to catch Nord Stream II gas suppliers.

US policy

Shub’s comments on Russia’s “malign” actions come amid doubt on future US foreign policy following the election of Donald Trump, who praised Russia during his campaign.

The EU and US imposed economic sanctions on Russia due to its invasion of Ukraine.

Shub said on Tuesday that he “can’t predict the future” on US sanctions policy, but he said both Congress and civil servants in Washington were “committed” to the modernisation of Ukraine.

A successful Ukraine would be the “best antidote to the cynical model coming out of Russia”, he said.

EU countries are preparing to extend the life of their economic sanctions on Russia by another six months due to its non-compliance with the so-called Minsk ceasefire accord.

One option is to clinch a provisional agreement among ambassadors in the run-up to the EU summit on 15 December, but to adopt it a couple of days later, as a courtesy to EU leaders, who are meant to keep control of the file.

Luhansk water crisis

Speaking also at the Ceps conference in Brussels on Tuesday, Thomas Mayr-Harting, a senior diplomat at the EU foreign service, said that even if there was to be no “substantial” change in EU-Russia relations in the near future, they should still work together on issues “where there’s a shared interest”.

He listed the Iran nuclear non-proliferation deal, the Syria war, and Russian fees for EU airlines to fly over Siberia to Asia, as examples.

He also said they should work together on getting water to people in the Luhansk region in war-torn Ukraine, who risked a humanitarian “calamity”.

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.

Opinion

Uncertainties multiply in EU's Russia policy

With Trump in the White House, the West’s Russia policy might substantially change, while Europe’s eastern policy is more uncertain than ever.

Opinion

Let Taiwan's democracy shine brighter

Dr Ming-Yen Tsai, head of the Taipei Representative Office in the EU and Belgium, responds to EUobserver op-ed on Taiwan by the Chinese ambassador to Belgium. "Taiwan is an 'island of resilience'. That will continue to be the case."

Opinion

Supporting Taiwan 'like carrying water in a sieve'

China's ambassador to Belgium, Cao Zhongming, says the US has been distorting, obscuring and hollowing out the 'one-China' principle and unscrupulously undermining China's core interests. This is sheer double standards and a shameful act of bad faith.

News in Brief

  1. Rhine river on the brink of closure for shipping
  2. Moldova sees 'prelude to war' with Russia-backed forces
  3. Taliban preventing Afghan evacuations to Germany
  4. Amnesty regrets 'distress' caused by Ukraine report
  5. Energy companies warn UK gas exports to EU are contaminated
  6. EU set for clash over rules on political adverts
  7. Three grain ships due to leave Ukraine on Friday
  8. EU on track to reach gas-storage November target

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. EFBWW – EFBH – FETBBConstruction workers can check wages and working conditions in 36 countries
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic and Canadian ministers join forces to combat harmful content online
  3. European Centre for Press and Media FreedomEuropean Anti-SLAPP Conference 2022
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers write to EU about new food labelling
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersEmerging journalists from the Nordics and Canada report the facts of the climate crisis
  6. Council of the EUEU: new rules on corporate sustainability reporting

Latest News

  1. Italy poised to elect far-right rulers
  2. UN chief demands access to nuclear plant after new attack
  3. Greek PM embroiled in spyware scandal
  4. How Ukraine made the case anew for an EU army
  5. 'We must take back institutions', Orban tells US conservatives
  6. Putin must lose Ukraine war, Nato chief says
  7. Let Taiwan's democracy shine brighter
  8. Droughts prompt calls to cut water use amid harvest fears

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us