Germany’s parliament on Wednesday (13 November) approved changes to the law governing the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline to make it compliant with European Union regulations, removing a hurdle to completion of the Russia-led project.
The legal tweaks approved by the Bundestag lower house relate to EU rules signed off in February that stipulate import pipelines should not be owned by gas suppliers and that third parties should also be able to use them.
The 1,225-km pipeline under the Baltic Sea is fully owned by Russia’s state-owned Gazprom.
The European Commission amended its Gas Directive in April, and the amended document entered into force on 23 May. It stipulates that a third-party nation cannot own both the pipeline and gas imported into the EU market unless the conduit was built before May 23, 2019.
However, member states have yet to transpose the amendments in their respective legislation. While the amended Directive is unable to halt the construction of Nord Stream 2, it is capable of delaying or suspending its operation.
Germany sees it as a primarily commercial project that is essential to energy security. But Eastern European, Nordic and Baltic Sea countries and the United States see the pipeline as increasing EU reliance on Russia.
Denmark last month removed the last major hurdle to completion of the pipeline by giving the go-head to construction of sections under its jurisdiction.
According to its initial schedule, Nord Stream 2 should have been operational by the end of this year when an agreement on the transit of Russian gas via Ukraine, the main route for exports to Europe, expires.
The EU has urged Russia and Ukraine to reach a new agreement before 31 December, but there are a number of obstacles, including a pro-Russian insurgency in eastern Ukraine, and litigation between Gazprom and Ukraine energy company Naftogaz.
Germany has said Nord Stream 2 would only be launched if Gazprom also continued to transit gas through Ukraine.