Poland smells German foul play over gas terminal

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Berlin is opposed to Poland receiving an EU grant to construct an LNG gas terminal on its Baltic coast due to environmental concerns. But the Polish press argues that the real cause of Germany's unease is that the new terminal would compete with the Nord Stream gas pipeline.

Germany asked Poland to carry out an environmental impact analysis of the Swinoujscie LNG terminal on its side of the border, on the western stretch of the Polish coast, Polish daily Dziennik Gazeta Prawna wrote yesterday (30 August).

According to the publication, Berlin wants to hold a thorough trans-boundary environmental assessment under the Espoo Convention, with the aim of delaying the start of construction of the LNG terminal, planned for mid-September.

According to Mikolaj Budzanowski, deputy minister of the Treasury, the procedures required by Germany would delay the opening of the LNG terminal, planned for 2014, by at least 2-3 years.

Malgorzata Polkowska from Polish company Gaz-System S.A. reportedly said that Germany did not trust the detailed analysis carried out by her company, which would led to a green light to construct the terminal. This analysis showed that the project has no cross-border environmental impact.

Berlin also insisted that Poland must abide by its obligations under the EU's 'Natura 2000' directives referring to bird habitats. Warsaw is also yet to prove that the project would not adversely affect bats living in the area.

Germany is opposed to EU financing of the Swinoujscie LNG terminal, but the real reason for its opposition is the Russo-German Nord Stream gas pipeline, Budzanowski says.

Germany hopes to be able to sell Russian gas from Nord Stream to Poland, while Warsaw has other ideas. The LNG terminal in Swinoujscie is to satisfy about 30% of Polish gas needs, with supplies arriving from sources other than Russia, such as Qatar.

In a worst-case scenario, Poland is considering building the terminal without EU funding, Budzanowski admitted.

Asked to comment on the Polish revelations about the Swinoujscie terminal, a European Commission spokesperson would only confirm yesterday that the decision to grant EU subsidies will be taken by the end of September.

Last April, Energy Commissioner Gnther Oettinger arrived in Russia for his first official visit outside the EU, where he attended celebrations marking the launch of construction work on the Nord Stream gas pipeline (EURACTIV 08/04/10).

The Nord Stream gas pipeline aims to bring Siberian gas directly to Germany under the Baltic Sea, bypassing Russia's 'problematic' neighbours, including Ukraine.

Nord Stream is designed to transport up to 55 billion cubic metres of gas per year, enough to supply more than 25 million households. 

Nord Steam is a joint project by four major companies: Gazprom, BASF/Wintershall Holding AG, E.ON Ruhrgas AG and N.V. Nederlandse Gasunie. Gazprom leads the consortium with a 51% stake. 

The pan-European nature of the pipeline is underscored by its status as a project under the EU's Trans-European Networks energy guidelines. This status was confirmed in 2006.

The total budget of Nord Steam is 7.4 billion euros, which makes it one of the largest privately-financed infrastructure projects ever attempted. 

On 1 March, in the presence of French President Nicolas Sarkozy and his Russian counterpart Dmitry Medvedev, GDF Suez and Gazprom signed an agreement in Paris, formalising the entry of the French utility to the Nord Stream pipeline project (EURACTIV 02/03/10).

The Nord Stream project is seen as controversial in several countries, including Poland, who is openly is opposed to it (EURACTIV 11/01/10).

The Commission recently accused Poland of preventing EU companies from buying its surplus Russian gas, infringing EU internal market rules (EURACTIV 15/07/10).

  • Commission to announce its decision on whether to grant a subsidy in September.

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