Estonia urges caution on Nord Stream 2 pipeline

Nord Stream 2 will transport Russian gas under the Baltic sea to Germany. [Shutterstock]

Estonia’s foreign minister has warned against letting the controversial Nord Stream 2 project, a planned pipeline between Russia and Germany, become a “tool for political pressure”. EURACTIV’s partner Der Tagesspiegel reports.

Estonian Foreign Minister Sven Mikser has outlined the negative consequences of the planned Nord Stream 2 pipeline on Europe’s energy security.

He told Der Tagesspiegel that “we must not allow suppliers to use energy as a tool for political pressure”.

“Before the project goes any further, we have to analyse the consequences very closely,” insisted the minister, whose country took over the rotating presidency of the European Council at the beginning of the month.

“If this analysis shows that Nord Stream 2 puts Russian suppliers in a position where they can exert pressure on any country in Europe, for example, Ukraine, then we have to take this very seriously,” Mikser added.

Estonia’s foreign minister also said that the European Commission should negotiate directly with Russia. The EU executive has previously raised its own concerns and has asked for a mandate to negotiate on behalf of the bloc on the legal framework of the project.

But it is still unclear if the member states will agree to grant the institution that mandate. Mikser confirmed that Estonia will use its EU presidency to “reach the necessary consensus” on the issue.

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Discussions on Russian gas imports should be looked at more broadly than from the narrow perspective of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline project, according to sources from the incoming Estonian Presidency of the EU who said the Baltic state would ask for a broader mandate to discuss Russian gas imports.

The German government is in favour of the planned pipeline, which will pass through the Baltic sea from Russia to Germany, like the already-existing Nord Stream pipe.

One of the project’s biggest fans is German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel, the former leader of the Socialist Democrats.

In June, he and Austrian Chancellor Christian Kern criticised a decision by the US Senate on toughening sanctions against Russia, which they claimed would warp Europe’s gas supply toward American suppliers.

Former German leader Gerhard Schröder has been head of Nord Stream 2’s board of directors for a year. The project is 100% owned by Russia’s state-run energy firm Gazprom.

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Mikser urged the EU member states to be united when dealing with Russia: “We have shown consensus when it comes to sanctions and we should continue to do so.”

But he warned against a gradual dismantling of the penalties, so long as Moscow “violates the fundamental principles of international law and does not respect its obligations”.

Mikser said that Russia has used “military violence twice in the past decade to achieve its political goals”, but insisted that Russian President Vladimir Putin is “rational and calculated”.