Poland blocks Finnish politician from EU top job

Poland has refused to support former Finish Prime Minister Paavo Lipponen’s candidacy as EU foreign policy chief, on the grounds that he works for Gazprom on the Nord Stream pipeline project. EURACTIV Poland reports.

Former Finnish Prime Minister Paavo Lipponen has indeed been working since August 2008 as a consultant for Gazprom on Nord Stream project, a planned natural gas pipeline travelling 1,220 kilometres between Vyborg, Russia and Greifswald, Germany under the Baltic Sea.

The project is considered controversial in several countries, especially Poland, Sweden and the Baltic states. However, Germany is strongly in favour of the pipeline, which in fact is considered “a project of EU interest” (EURACTIV 02/09/09).

According to the Polish government, the investment threatens state security, because it affects negatively the transit and supply of raw natural gas pipeline ‘Yamal’ and ‘Brotherhood’ and presents an ecological threat.

Nord Stream is designed to transport up to 55 billion cubic metres of gas per year, enough to supply more than 25 million households. Construction is due to start in April 2010 (EURACTIV 14/05/09).

The shareholders in Nord Stream are Gazprom (51%), BASF/Wintershall Holding AG (20%), E.ON Ruhrgas AG (20%) and N.V. Nederlandse Gasunie (9%). France’s GDF Suez is also reportedly joining (EURACTIV 30/07/09).

Polish press agency PAP reported that Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk had explained his position to his Swedish counterpart, Fredrik Reinfeldt (who currently holds the EU’s rotating presidency), during commemorations of the outbreak of World War II in northern Poland last weekend. 

Positions

"We are in the preliminary stage to choose candidates. Thus it is very difficult to talk about the blocking of any candidacy. The Polish government is certainly willing to support someone else," said MEP Pawel Zalewski (EPP) told national newspaper Rzeczpospolita.

"Such information - who would be, who could be, who is against whom - is too early, as negotiations are still ongoing. But what is important in this institutional triangle – the head of the Commission, the head of the Council and the minister of foreign affairs – is balance," said MEP Jacek Saryusz-Wolski (EPP) on Polish radio Jedynka.

“It is very important that Eastern Europe and Scandinavian states can be represented in this triangle," he added. He insisted that the candidate should be involved in 'Eastern Partnership' issues, insinuating that he could not be someone who works for Nord Stream. 

Background

The Treaty of Lisbon, expected to enter into force in 2010, introduces two new European top jobs: a high-profile president who will chair EU summit meetings for a two-and-a-half year term and a revamped foreign policy chief (see EURACTIV LinksDossier on 'Choosing Mr. Europe').

Four former government heads are expected to be candidates for the post: Felipe González (Spain), Tony Blair (United Kingdom), Paavo Lipponen (Finland) and Wolfgang Schüssel (Austria). Two foreign ministers could also get the job: Carl Bildt (Sweden) and Frank-Walter Steinemeier (Germany). 

Further Reading