France Plans to Vote for EU Gas Directive Amendments Torpedoing Nord Stream 2 REUTERS Wolfgang Rattay
10 February, 2019, 21:59
Russian Federation has warned the European Union not to adopt tighter energy rules that could complicate plans to build a gas pipeline between Russian Federation and Germany under the Baltic Sea.
France had long raised concerns in private about the pipeline, not wanting to be seen as supporting the USA stance, and French President Emmanuel Macron discussed it at least four times with Merkel, said another source familiar with the issue.
In its current form, Nord Stream 2, fully owned by Russian state energy firm Gazprom, would not be compliant with tougher new rules foreseen for new infrastructure projects.
Ambassadors of European Union countries meeting in Brussels gave the go-ahead to a tweaked proposal that sets the scene for negotiations on extending the bloc's rules regulating gas deliveries to incoming pipelines, like Nord Stream 2.
In a joint op-ed published by Germany's Deutsche Welle, the USA ambassadors to Germany, Denmark, and the European Union on February 7 urged EU member states to support the proposed change in the EU regulations.
Critics are also anxious that the pipeline could deliver a major blow to Ukraine's economy since along with its TurkStream project - another pipeline that runs from Russia to Turkey - Russia would be able to completely bypass Ukraine pipelines, leaving Kyev without gas transit fees.
The Kremlin's spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Russian Federation meant to keep working on the project and that the pipeline was the most secure way to deliver gas to Europe. The pipeline project has been welcomed by some countries in Europe, including Austria, but opposed by others.
France's defection is also surprising, because one of the financial investors in Nord Stream 2 is Engie, a French-led multinational company.
In an effort to address concerns, Merkel has insisted that gas volumes must continue via Ukraine - the traditional route for supplies that make up over a third of the EU's gas needs.
A bipartisan group of U.S. senators tabled a resolution in Washington the same day "calling on European governments to cancel the Nord Stream 2 pipeline". "I say "no", if we diversify at the same time", Merkel told a news conference in Bratislava, where she met the leaders of the Visegrad group - Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia.
Delay in the construction of the pipeline would weaken Moscow's leverage in talks with Ukraine over a new gas transit deal this year and would create uncertainty for Gazprom partners involved.
But if the European Union commission law gets through, Gazprom will have to sell Nord Stream 2 gas via an independent intermediary.
The latter is explained by the fact that Russian Gas is previously passed through Eastern Europe towards the West. Countries such as Ukraine and Poland make a profit on so-called transmission fees a lot of money.
Former German chancellor Gerhard Schroeder is chairman of Nord Stream's shareholders committee.
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