November 28, 2021

New setback for the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline

The Nord Stream 2 soap opera continues. Two months after the end of the construction of this controversial gas pipeline connecting Russia to Germany via the Baltic Sea, the German Network Agency (Bundesnetzagentur) announced Tuesday, November 16, that it was suspending its certification procedure. Its green light, which is essential, is one of the final stages before the commissioning of this new pipeline, which must transport 55 billion cubic meters of Russian gas to Europe annually. The pipeline has sparked heated debate within the European Union (EU) since relations with Moscow hardened.

In the press release justifying its decision, the German agency indicates that a “Certification of the operator of Nord Stream 2 is only possible if it is organized in a legal form under German law”. While the operator, based in Zug (Switzerland), has undertaken to create a company incorporated under German law in order to operate the section of the pipeline located in Germany, the “Transfer of essential assets and human resources” from the Swiss company to its German subsidiary, it is still in progress. It’s only when he will be “Completed” that the certification procedure, which must take place within four months, can resume, while filling has already started on the Russian side.

Also read our editorial: Nord Stream 2: European solidarity put to the test of a gas pipeline

If its basis is legal, the decision announced on Tuesday still has strong political implications because it comes at a time when the Social Democrats (SPD), the Greens and the Liberals (FDP) are in the process of finalizing the “contract of coalition ”of the next German government, which is to be invested in the week of December 6, under the leadership of the future Chancellor, Olaf Scholz (SPD).

Hint of Russian blackmail at prices

However, environmentalists have always been opposed, from the start, to Nord Stream 2. Unsurprisingly, they welcomed this suspension. “The agency bases its decisions on law and legislation, which is very good”said the vice-chairman of the Greens in the Bundestag, Oliver Krischer, for whom this decision is proof that « Gazprom [le géant russe des hydrocarbures, maître d’œuvre du projet] does not take German and European legislation seriously ”.

After having cleared the obstacle of the veto of the United States this summer, Nord Stream 2 therefore comes up against a new obstacle in a context of strong tensions at the Belarusian and Ukrainian borders, and after a surge in gas prices no less conflictual. On this subject, the Kremlin and Gazprom have certainly played the appeasement, the hand on the tap, President Vladimir Putin having asked, on October 27, the gas giant to finally increase deliveries to the European Union to fill the tanks. “In order to create a more favorable situation”.

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