Will Europeans speak with one voice on Nord Stream 2 issue?

Vestnik Kavkaza, Bloomberg
Will Europeans speak with one voice on Nord Stream 2 issue?

The Fortuna pipelayer, together with the Baltic research and Murman construction vessels, are to complete the construction of two lines of the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline in the exclusive economic zone of Denmark by late April 2021, the construction operator Nord Stream 2 AG reports. Germany remains the largest buyer of Russian gas in Europe. It is followed by Italy, Great Britain, France and Austria.

The controversial Nord Stream 2 natural gas pipeline is “in the interests of many European Union countries” and the bloc shouldn’t jeopardize the project over opposition to Russia’s imprisonment of Alexey Navalny, Austria’s Chancellor Sebastian Kurz said, Bloomberg informs. “I welcome that Germany’s government continues to stick with Nord Stream 2,” Kurz told Welt am Sonntag in an interview published Saturday. “It’s a European project. Whoever thinks it is only in Russia’s interest is wrong.”

Nord Stream 2 will directly link Gazprom and European consumers and ensure the reliability of Russian gas supplies to Europe. From the Ust-Luga Leningrad Region, the gas pipeline will run along the bottom of the Baltic Sea and will reach Germany in the Greifswald region, not far from the Nord Stream exit point. The aggregate capacity of the two lines of Nord Stream 2 is 55 billion cubic meters of gas per year. Thus, the total design capacity of Nord Stream and Nord Stream 2 is 110 billion cubic meters of gas per year.

In 2017, Gazprom, German Wintershall and Uniper, French ENGIE, Austrian OMV and Dutch-British Royal Dutch Shell signed an agreement on the construction of the third and fourth lines of Nord Stream 2. It was decided that five European companies will provide long-term financing in the amount of 50% of the total project cost. In September 2017, OMV CEO Rainer Seele said that Gazprom's European partners could revise the project financing scheme in connection with tougher anti-Russian sanctions by the United States. The American leadership has repeatedly stated that the pipeline "creates geopolitical risks due to the increased dependence of Germany on Russian gas." The US and other countries fear that this could give Moscow leverage over Berlin and other NATO allies.

Germany, Austria and other European countries will benefit from the completion of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline, Kurz said, describing it as a “very positive project.” The EU would be in danger of weakening itself if it were to oppose the link now, Kurz was cited as saying. Still, the bloc must also protect the interests of Ukraine, which sees itself as loosing out from fewer gas flows, he said.

Late last year, Russian Ambassador to Austria Dmitry Lyubinsky noted Austria's constructive, independent and consistent position on the implementation of Nord Stream 2 with the participation of the country's leading energy concern OMV. “They understand that the project is economically profitable for Austria, and they expect that the construction of the gas pipeline will be completed in accordance with the existing contractual basis and despite the illegal US sanctions, which pursue narrowly selfish goals - not only to push Russia back and push through its own LNG but also to strike on the competitiveness of the EU energy-intensive industry, " Lyubinsky told RIA Novosti. He stressed that the project is purely commercial in nature and is aimed at the uninterrupted supply of blue fuel to European partners, whose consumption has continued to grow in recent years. "Under the existing contracts, in January-September, 8.8 billion cubic meters of gas were supplied to Austria. We believe in the continuation of the half-century success story of Russian-Austrian energy cooperation," the diplomat added.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel and France’s President Emmanuel Macron on Friday vowed to put aside differences over the pipeline ahead of talks with U.S. President Joe Biden, saying they will work together on a more unified European energy strategy and will speak with one voice on Nord Stream 2.