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28th Feb 2024

Poland compares German-Russian pipeline to Nazi-Soviet pact

The Polish defence minister has compared a planned German-Russian gas pipeline to the 1939 Hitler-Stalin deal partitioning Poland, with EU energy commissioner Andris Piebalgs also criticising the gas project.

The 1,200 km pipeline is currently under construction and will link Russia to Germany under the Baltic Sea, bypassing states which maintain problematic ties with Moscow such as Poland, the Baltic states and Ukraine.

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  • Warsaw fears the new pipe will make it easier for Moscow to cut off its energy supplies (Photo: Gazprom)

The project, agreed by former German chancellor Gerhard Schroder and Russian president Vladimir Putin in 2005, has sparked repeated criticism from Poland and Lithuania which say Germany should have consulted fellow EU member states.

Polish defence minister Radek Sikorski at a transatlantic conference in Brussels on Sunday (30 April) compared the pipeline to the 1939 Molotov-Ribbentrop pact, named after the Soviet and Nazi foreign ministers who divided Poland in a secret protocol.

"Poland has a particular sensitivity to corridors and deals above our head. That was the Locarno tradition, that was the Molotov-Ribbentrop tradition. That was the 20th century. We don't want any repetition of that," Mr Sikorski said according to Reuters.

He argued that Germany should have spoken to Poland before striking the deal.

"Taking the decision first and consulting us later is not our idea of solidarity," the minister said, while attacking current German chancellor Angela Merkel for not cancelling the deal made by the previous government.

"We asked. She refused," Mr Sikorski stated.

Bad for consumers

The Polish minister said the pipeline under the Baltic Sea would be $6 billion (€4.8 billion) more expensive than land-based gas pipeline projects through Poland, leading to higher energy prices for consumers.

"Germany is an important partner for us. We are astonished that Germany would do something which doesn't benefit consumers and the geopolitical objective of which is to be able to cut off Belarus and Poland without cutting off Germany," he explained.

"The Russian ambassador to Belarus said last week when the Baltic pipeline is built, [Russian state gas monopoly] Gazprom will be able to cut off Belarus without cutting off Germany. That means Poland too."

EU energy commissioner Andris Piebalgs backed Warsaw's criticism of Germany's unilateral approach to Russia.

"We should never have the situation we will have with this pipeline, where one partner country decided a project that is not acceptable to others, not even discussing it," he said.

The European Commission in a landmark green paper on energy in March proposed the development of a "common external energy policy" towards Moscow.

Currently, Russia's state gas monopoly Gazprom provides about 30 percent of gas supplies for France, Germany and Italy, and over 90 percent to new EU member states in central and eastern Europe.

Russia also supplies about one quarter of Europe's oil.

EU seeks US help

Speaking at the same conference, commission president Jose Manuel Barroso said that Moscow should open its energy market to competition if it expects to gain further access to European markets.

"If we put an open, competitive European market at the disposal of Russia then we expect reciprocity. An open, competitive market for us. But here lies the difference between us," he indicated, according to Polish media.

Mr Barroso added that Brussels and Washington will put the thorny issue on the agenda of a G8 leaders' meeting in St Petersburg in July.

"The EU and US must together send a clear signal on the need to change the paradigm in energy matters. I will give such a message at the next EU-US summit in June and also at the St Petersburg summit in July."

"As constructive partners [together with the US] we should clearly declare our discomfort at the developments in Russia," he added.

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