Mainstream parties block ECR resolution to force vote on Nord Stream 2

A sign reading 'Nord Stream 2 - Committed. Reliable. Safe.' picutured near the pipeline landfall facility of the joint German-Russian pipeline project Nord Stream 2, in Lubmin, Germany, 15 October 2020. [EPA-EFE/CLEMENS BILAN]

An attempt by right-wing Polish MEPs to force a plenary vote on the controversial gas pipeline between Russia and Germany was blocked for a second time by the two largest groups in the European Parliament on Thursday (29 April), Parliament sources told EURACTIV.

The draft resolution by European Conservative and Reformist (ECR) MEPs, Anna Zalewska and Zdzisław Krasnodębski, would have gone further than past votes by Parliament by adopting an opinion solely on the pipeline.

The draft highlights how finishing the pipeline would decrease Europe’s energy security and make it more vulnerable because “Russia has already used supplies of energy sources as a tool for political blackmail in the past” and “the construction of the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline would increase Russia’s influence in Europe by offering it yet another instrument of political pressure”.

However, a meeting of the Conference of Presidents, which decides the parliamentary agenda, blocked the attempt for a second time.

Socialists and Democrats requested that it be removed from the agenda for the May voting session. The conservative European People’s Party – the largest group of lawmakers in the Parliament – supported them alongside Renew.

The first attempt took place in the 22 April meeting, which decided the agenda for the voting session that happened this week.

According to sources familiar with the meeting on 29 April, the resolution had support from the Greens, the ECR and the far-right Identity and Democracy (ID) Group.

It was partly blocked over concerns that the agenda would become ‘too crowded’, given there had already been a vote on Russia this week and an additional one is due in June.

The resolution that Parliament passed this week did include a clause on Nord Stream 2, which “demands that the EU should reduce its dependence on Russian energy, and urges the EU institutions and all member states, therefore, to stop the completion of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline and to demand a stop to the construction of controversial nuclear power plants built by Rosatom”, a Russian nuclear energy corporation.

But this is the fifth resolution to have referred to Nord Stream with the idea of halting it, but limited reference to it, said a source familiar with the matter.

Zalewska believes there needs to be a document that specifically addresses Nord Stream 2 and the actions to stop it, including calling on member states to withdraw political support, demanding they cease construction and calling on the Commission to stop it.

The pipeline, which is almost completed, has been highly criticised, both for its environmental impact and security concerns around Russia.

Russia is renowned for pipelines leaking methane, which is significantly more damaging to the environment than CO2. In autumn last year, European Space Agency satellites found huge amounts of methane leaking from a pipeline carrying natural gas from Siberia to Europe.

The pipeline could be completed by September, but it remains a sensitive topic for many groups in the European Parliament because it causes fractions on national lines.

This is a particular challenge for the Socialists and Democrats and the European People’s Party, which are both broad churches. Both also have a strong representation from Germany, whose leader, Chancellor Angela Merkel, has supported the pipeline.

The German government repeatedly said it will not abandon the Nord Stream 2 project, despite US sanctions and similar calls by the European Parliament in the context of the Navalny case.

The pipeline is creating a particular headache for the German Social Democrats too as it will touch down on German soil in the state of Mecklenburg-Western Pommerania, which is governed by Manuela Schwesig (SPD). Former German Chancellor and ex-SPD leader Gerhard Schröder has been instrumental in agreeing and building the Nord Stream pipeline.

Sources from German business circles told EURACTIV Germany earlier this year that for the time being there is no concrete worry of negative economic impacts caused by the US sanctions.

Meanwhile, Poland and other central and eastern European countries, which are a strong force in the ECR, are against Nord Stream 2 and the EU over-reliance on Russia for gas.

[Edited by Georgi Gotev]

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