New German government repeats old fallback positions on Nord Stream 2

New German government repeats old fallback positions on Nord Stream 2

The new German chancellor and the foreign minister made statements over the weekend, which didn’t signal a shift of policy with respect to the controversial Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline compared to the positions of the Merkel administration.

The Nord Stream 2 pipeline cannot be certified currently because it does not comply with European Union energy regulation, German foreign minister Annalena Baerbock told public broadcaster ZDF on Sunday (12 December).

Nord Stream 2, which would bring Russian gas under the Baltic Sea to Germany bypassing Ukraine, was completed in September, but has still not been certified due to regulatory hurdles. At the same time there are fears of a Russian offensive on Ukraine.

Germany’s energy watchdog in November halted its certification process for the pipeline, which is to transport Russian gas to Germany, saying its operator needed to set up a local subsidiary under European rules. Setting up a local subsidiary takes time, but it is not a big hurdle for the project.

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“And that means that, as things presently stand, this pipeline cannot be approved, because it does not fulfil requirements of European energy legislation and questions of security are still open,” Baerbock said.

She also made it clear that in the event of any new “escalation” in Ukraine, under an agreement between Berlin and Washington, Nord Stream 2 would not be allowed to operate.

Earlier on Sunday, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said that gas was unlikely to flow through the pipeline if Russia renewed its aggression against Ukraine.

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Baerbock was speaking after the weekend G7 meeting on tensions with Russia, and ahead of a sit-down with her European partners on Monday.

German chancellor Olof Scholz had earlier said during a visit to Poland that: “It would be a serious mistake to believe that violating the borders of a European country would remain without consequences.”

At a news conference in Warsaw on Sunday Scholz said that Germany remains committed to safeguarding Ukraine’s role as a transit route for gas into Europe. This was the third foreign visit of the new chancellor after Paris and Brussels.

“We continue to feel responsible for ensuring that Ukraine’s gas transit business remains successful. The same goes for future opportunities,” Scholz said, besides Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki.

Scholz’s predecessor Angela Merkel had said that the political basis for operating Nord Stream 2 was Russia’s commitment to continue to use Ukraine as a gas transit route in the future as well.

“We will also help Ukraine be a country that will be a major source of renewable energy and the necessary production that results from that. We are in concrete talks around how we can help achieve that,” Scholz said.

“It would be better not to allow the opening of Nord Stream 2,” Morawiecki said at the news conference.

“I drew the chancellor’s attention to the risks linked to the opening of the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline and sadly the extent to which… these risks for Ukraine could get considerably worse.”

Poland has long opposed the €10-billion pipeline, which is majority owned by Russian gas giant Gazprom.

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