The centre-right European Peoples’ Party (EPP), the largest group in the European Parliament, has taken a strong position against Nord Stream 2, a Gazprom-favoured project to bring additional Russian gas from Russia to Germany under the Baltic Sea.
Manfred Weber, president of the EPP group in the European Parliament, has sent a letter to Energy Commissioner Miguel Arias Cañete and to German Vice Chancellor and Minister of Economy Sigmar Gabriel, condemning the project as incompatible with core EU principles and objectives.
The project is facing heavy criticism from Central European countries, the US and Ukraine, which fears losing its role as a transit country.
Poland wants the European Union to ban the construction of a second pipeline to pump Russian gas to Germany under the Baltic Sea, alleging it undermines the bloc’s strategic interests and violates competition rules.
The letter, dated 26 April, is significant, because it comes from an important ally of German Chancellor Angela Merkel. Weber is an MEP from the Christian Social Union of Bavaria (CSU), a strong ally of Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union of Germany (CDU).
“As President of the EPP group, I would like to emphasise the need to emphasise the project’s incompatibility with the core objectives of diversification of routes of transit for imported energy and sources of energy supply. In contrast, it would lead to a significant increase of the EU’s dependency on Russia for its gas supply,” Weber writes.
He further states that Nord Stream 2 contradicts the EU’s foreign policy, security and goals of the Eastern Partnership, the format of relations between the EU and its eastern European neighbours Ukraine, Moldova, Belarus, Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan.
“The EU risks creating detrimental consequences for the gas supply in Central and Eastern Europe, including Ukraine, in particular against the background of Gazprom’s announcement to stop gas deliveries to Ukraine once Nord Stream 2 is finalised,” the letter adds.
Recently, Germany has sought to overcome opposition to Nord Stream 2 by saying that the project to double Russian gas flows to Germany will only go ahead if Russia does not cut off gas flows to Ukraine and eastern Europe.
A new pipeline to double Russian gas flows to Germany will only go ahead if Russia does not cut off gas flows to Ukraine and eastern Europe, German Vice Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel told the Polish government on 29 January.
Weber writes that the EPP believes that Nord Stream 2 should not only be excluded from EU financial support, but that the Third Energy package must fully apply to the project.
The sponsors of Nord Stream 2 are in talks with the European Commission to possibly exclude the pipeline or parts of it from EU legislation, including third party access. The EPP statement appears to indicate that the political force would object to possible compromise.
Speaking to a group of journalists yesterday (19 April), Commission Vice-President Maroš Šefčovič, in charge of the Energy Union, shed light on the ongoing negotiations to reconcile the Nord Stream 2 pipeline project with EU legislation.
Weber’s letter also expresses concern about the role of the Commission in bringing to life the Southern Gas Corridor (SGC), a project to bring gas to the EU from sources other than Russia, in Europe’s South East. So far, it is envisaged that offshore gas from Azerbaijan would reach the EU across the TANAP pipeline via Turkey, and the TAP pipeline via Greece and Albania to Italy, by 2020. In the more distant future, SGC could also bring gas from Iraq and Iran.
“It is unclear to what extent the European Commission is working together with European energy companies towards the realisation of the southern gas corridor […]. It is important to ensure that the project doesn’t share the same fate as its predecessor Nabucco,” Weber writes.
Nabucco is a now defunct gas pipeline project to bring Caspian gas from the Turkish-Bulgarian border to the Baumgarten gas hub near Vienna.
According to an article by VoteWatch EU, it is likely that Nord Stream 2 will draw a divisive line between the national governments of the main stakeholders including Germany, and their MEPs.