Former German chancellor Gerhard Schröder visited Brussels in his new capacity as a high-rank advisor to the company created to operate the disputed Baltic Sea gas-pipeline project.
Schröder, who was voted out of office in the fall of 2005, met with Industry Commissioner Günter Verheugen, who is a member of the German Social Democrat Party (SPD), formerly chaired by Schröder, and Energy Commissioner Andris Piebalgs. He praised the Baltic Sea pipeline project, which is promoted by his new employer, Nord Stream AG, as being “completely essential as far as gas supply security goes, not only for Germany but also Europe”.
Nord Stream AG is a Russian-German joint venture based in Switzerland and controlled by Russia’s state-controlled gas monopolist, Gazprom. Its project has come under attack from central and eastern European countries led by Poland. They fear that Russia might use the pipeline, which bypasses their territories, to impose higher energy prices on them without them having the means to react.
In addition, countries bordering the Baltic Sea – in particular Sweden – have criticised the pipeline from an environmental perspective. At the end of the Second World War, shiploads of explosives and chemical weapons were dumped in the Baltic Sea regions that the pipeline is set to cross. Schröder addressed these concerns by announcing that Nord Stream would complete an environmental-impact assessment in the summer of 2007.
Nord Stream Managing Director Matthias Warnig added that he did not believe the concern would lead to delays in the construction of the pipeline, which is projected for 2010: “Nord Stream is developing an active dialogue with all the countries around the Baltic Sea to find optimal ways to implement the project. Nord Stream will deliver a comprehensive environmental impact assessment in autumn 2007.” Earlier, Nord Stream had already announced its intention to plan the pipeline route to avoid ammunition dumps and to clear a one-kilometre corridor on both sides of the pipeline of explosives.