Nord Stream ‘a waste of money’, says Poland

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The Nord Stream pipeline project is “a waste of European consumers’ money,” Polish Foreign Minister Rados?aw Sikorski told the Polish National Assembly’s foreign affairs committee last week.

Sikorski said on 6 January that the project, favoured by Russia and Germany, has been pushed through despite Poland’s disapproval and does not make economic sense.

The Polish authorities have pointed out several times that the Russo-German consortium led by Russian giant Gazprom has not been able to explain why a sea route is better than the cheaper land option.

Sikorski has long been a vocal opponent of the pipeline. He caused a stir in 2006 when, as defence minister, he said the Nord Stream project echoed the 1939 Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, under which Nazi Germany and the Stalinist Soviet Union carved up Poland at the start of World War II.

Poland and other ex-communist Baltic Sea states such as Estonia and Lithuania have warned that the pipeline will increase Europe’s direct dependence on Russia for natural gas (EURACTIV 27/08/09).

Nord Stream, along with its South Stream counterpart, is part of a Russian effort to diversify regional transit via routes that avoid politically-sensitive territory in Ukraine (see EURACTIV LinksDossier).

Denmark granted a construction permit for the Nord Stream pipe last October (EURACTIV 22/10/09).

Russian and German authorities also delivered at the end of December permits for the construction of two sections of Nord Stream in their waters, a 123km section and a 50km section respectively.

Finland is the only participating country that is yet to grant a permit. Nord Stream, for its part, is confident that the construction of the pipeline will go ahead as planned.

“We are firmly on schedule to start construction of the pipeline in spring 2010 and to start transporting gas in 2011,” Nord Stream Managing Director Matthias Warnig said in a statement on the project’s website. 

Nord Stream is a planned natural gas pipeline travelling 1,220 kilometres between Vyborg, Russia and Greifswald, Germany under the Baltic Sea. Nord Stream is designed to transport up to 55 billion cubic metres of gas per year, enough to supply more than 25 million households. Construction is due to start in April 2010 (EURACTIV 14/05/09).

The shareholders in Nord Stream are Gazprom, BASF/Wintershall Holding AG, E.ON Ruhrgas AG and N.V. Nederlandse Gasunie. Gazprom leads the consortium with a 51% stake. France's GDF Suez is also reportedly joining (EURACTIV 30/07/09).

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. 

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