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Sep 16, 2020
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European contradictions: what is behind the words of the head of EU diplomacy about the impossibility of stopping Nord Stream 2

The suspension of the Nord Stream 2 project as a response to the situation with the Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny is not within the competence of the European Union. This was stated by the head of European diplomacy Josep Borrell. Earlier, the Austrian President and Chancellor said they did not see a connection between the situation with Navalny and the construction of a gas pipeline, which they called a commercial project. Experts note that contradictions have formed within the EU due to the desire of a number of countries to receive energy resources from Russia at favorable prices and the intention of the European bureaucracy to impose new sanctions against Moscow.

The EU institutions do not have the authority to stop the implementation of the Nord Stream 2 project. This was stated by the head of EU diplomacy Josep Borrell, speaking at a session of the European Parliament. Thus, he answered the calls of parliamentarians to stop the project because of the situation with the Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny.

“Some of you are talking about the possibility of influencing Nord Stream 2. EU institutions have no authority to stop Nord Stream 2. This issue should be resolved by the states of the community that promoted this project, ”said the head of European diplomacy.

At the same time, Borrell noted that the European Commission "has never expressed much enthusiasm for this gas pipeline."

We will remind that some European politicians began to call for the refusal to complete the construction of the Nord Stream-2 gas pipeline after the incident with Alexei Navalny, who was allegedly poisoned by a substance from the Novichok group.

Borrell's statement came against the backdrop of statements by Austrian President Alexander Van der Bellen and Chancellor Sebastian Kurz against the use of any measures against the pipeline.

Van der Bellen said he sees no connection between the situation around Navalny and the Nord Stream 2 project, which he views as a commercial one. He also added that the pipeline issue should be resolved not in the United States, but in Europe.

In turn, Chancellor Sebastian Kurz, at a joint briefing with President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelenskyy, noted that he does not share the latter's position that the pipeline is a challenge to the energy security of all of Europe.

For us in Austria, Nord Stream 2 is an economic project, it is still a positive project, because we are of the opinion that the more diversification, the better when we can use different routes for obtaining or transporting energy to Europe ”, - said Kurtz.

Final decisions

As noted by Igor Yushkov, a leading analyst at the National Energy Security Fund, Josep Borrell, in his statement, points out the impossibility of stopping construction by a decision from Brussels, since permits for laying the gas pipeline were issued by the authorities of those countries through whose territory it runs.

“All construction permits have already been issued, in order to pick them up, you need to somehow justify your position. And not by some incident with Navalny, but only if statements about the threat to the environment are made, and they need to be proved, ”the expert said.

Igor Yushkov noted that the revocation of the construction permit at this stage of the project implementation is unlikely, as it would be fraught with claims from Gazprom. At the same time, the issue of imposing sanctions against the project requires a unanimous decision by the EU members.

“If at least one country is against, there will be no sanctions. Now the EU is not sure that if the issue of sanctions in the form of a ban on the construction of Nord Stream 2 is raised, everyone will vote for it, ”the expert noted.

  • Head of European Diplomacy Josep Borrell
  • Reuters
  • © Yves Herman

At the same time, Igor Yushkov admitted that sanctions from the United States could be imposed against Nord Stream 2.

“Even before the situation with Navalny, the United States was considering several bills against the“ Northern for now - 2 ”. Germany lobbied to change the text of these bills so that they did not relate to restrictions on the maintenance of the gas pipeline, its commissioning and certification, because in this case Germany itself may fall under US sanctions, ”the expert recalled.

Washington can use the situation with the alleged poisoning of the Russian oppositionist to pass these bills in the most severe form. This will mean the introduction of sanctions both against the energy sector of Russia and against German companies, the expert said.

We will remind that earlier US President Donald Trump said that he would support the termination of the implementation of Nord Stream 2 due to the situation with the Russian opposition. He expressed dissatisfaction with the fact that Berlin is making a deal, according to which it will pay Russia "billions of dollars", while the United States must "protect Germany from Russia" within NATO. Later this position was confirmed by the US State Department.

The situation with Alexei Navalny

Recall that Alexei Navalny was hospitalized on August 20 in Omsk after he fell ill on board. No poisons or toxic substances were found in his body.

At the request of Navalny's family, he was taken to Germany for treatment, where he was taken to the Charite hospital under state protection. On September 2, the FRG authorities, citing German military doctors, said that Navalny had allegedly been poisoned with poison from the Novichok group.

Initially, German politicians did not link the incident with Navalny and the construction of the gas pipeline. However, after statements about the alleged use of a substance from the Novichok group (known in the case of former intelligence officer Sergei Skripal), some high-ranking officials of the FRG government admitted that the situation could affect the fate of Nord Stream 2.

  • Clinic in Berlin where Alexey Navalny received treatment
  • Reuters
  • © Christian Man

At the same time, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said on September 8 that the reaction to the situation with Navalny would be of a pan-European nature and Berlin would listen to the opinion of its EU partners.

On September 11, German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said that Berlin was considering all options, including the suspension of the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline project. At the same time, Maas noted that Russia can take part in the investigation of the incident with Navalny and thereby "contribute" to the fact that the decision to suspend the construction of Nord Stream 2 is not taken.

However, a number of German politicians spoke out against stopping the project. Similar statements were made by the head of the federal state of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, Manuela Schwezig, representing the Social Democratic Party of Germany. It was also supported by the former head of the region Erwin Zellering.

Oliver Hermes, chairman of the Eastern Committee of the German Economy, commenting on the possible termination of the project, notes that it is unclear from what sources Germany will receive additional gas in this case to compensate for its rejection of coal and nuclear energy.

In turn, on September 15, the head of the Committee on Economics and Energy of the German Bundestag, Klaus Ernst, said that the introduction of sanctions against Russia due to the situation with Alexei Navalny would become “friendly fire” for Europe - according to the studies he referred to, sanctions harm Europe almost as much as Russia.

In turn, the representative of the Danish Energy Agency (DEA) Morten Christensen said that the regulator is not going to revoke the permit for Nord Stream 2 for political reasons. According to Christensen, Denmark, like other Baltic Sea states, has ratified the Convention on the Law of the Sea and is therefore obliged to authorize transit pipelines on its sections of the continental shelf.

As Konstantin Voronov, head of the regional problems and conflicts sector of the European Political Studies Department of the IMEMO RAS, noted in an interview with RT, the conflicting positions of the leadership of the EU, Austria and Germany can be explained by the divergence of the national interests of these countries and the political establishment of the EU. This is especially evident in the discrepancy between the initial statement of Merkel about a certain "common answer" and the current statement of Josep Borrell, the expert emphasized.

“Merkel is trying to shield herself with a European position and does not want to take responsibility, so she talks about a European consensus, but there is none. It is not so easy to come to a consensus in Europe. Therefore, the situation is quite difficult for Merkel, and for Europe, and for European structures. They are trying, but it is not so easy to reach the necessary consensus, ”Voronov explained.

The difficulty in working out a common position on Nord Stream 2 between the EU bureaucracy and the Union members is also that a number of European countries are interested in purchasing gas from Russia at favorable prices and do not want to become a consumer of more expensive gas from America. explained Konstantin Voronov.

“Therefore, they need to keep the Russian source. But geopolitical pressure from the United States and European structures will continue. At the same time, the ratio of price and quality plays in favor of pipeline gas from Russia, rather than American liquefied gas, ”the expert stressed.

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