Eastern European Countries Discuss Nord Stream Gas Pipeline

Parliament speakers in Lithuania, Latvia, and Poland voiced opposition on March 12 to the new Nord Stream gas pipeline that runs across the Baltic seabed linking Russia with Germany. Critics say the project, which bypasses Ukraine and Eastern European countries, will increase the rest of Europe’s energy dependence on Russia, further undermining European energy security, according to Worldview. The 761-mile pipeline is on schedule for completion next year. The $11 billion private project is backed by Russia’s state-owned gas giant Gazprom and five energy companies from Germany, France, Britain, and the Netherlands, according to VOA . It also has the strong support of Moscow and Berlin.

“Although formally presented as a commercial project, Nord Stream 2 is actually Russia’s policy instrument,” said a joint statement to the heads of European Parliament signed by Viktoras Pranckietis, Marek Kuchcinski, and Inara Mursniec, the parliamentary speakers of Lithuania, Poland, and Latvia, respectively.

The statement further read, “Nord Stream 2 is not about the diversification of gas supply sources but the deepening of energy dependence of the EU, especially Central and Eastern European countries, on Russia, which consequently maintains their vulnerability.” It also suggested that the project should be “viewed in a wider context of today’s Russian information and cyber hostilities and military aggression.”

Estonian Parliament Speaker Eiki Nestor has not signed the letter yet, stating that more time is needed to investigate the issue. Meanwhile, Andriy Parubiy, chairman of the Ukrainian Parliament, has expressed support for the statement and promised to sign it.

Despite the controversy, in another joint statement the chief executives of Wintershall, Uniper, and OMV, three companies partnering with Gazprom on the construction of the pipelines, asked for legal backing from the European Commission, according to Reuters. It pointed out that the discussion was emotionally driven, and Europe’s import needs could become too costly if countries were to depend upon liquefied natural gas imports from the United States. Europe’s energy supply should not be allowed to become “a pawn in the hand of American energy, economic, security, and geopolitics,” the statement said.

Moldovan President Igor Dodon condemned the Moldovan parliament for supporting the Baltic states’ opposition to the project, according to EurAsia Daily. He believes that the pipelines will supply reasonably priced energy resources and strengthen Moldova’s energy security. The pipeline also appears to be making progress in the Czech Republic, which is torn between its biggest trading partner, Germany, and other regional allies.

After a meeting with Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz in Moscow, Russian President Vladimir Putin told reporters that both Kurz and himself “support the implementation of this project which is undoubtedly, absolutely free from politics. This is a purely economic and moreover purely commercial project.”

Many eastern states, however, are concerned about engaging in big business with Putin. Opponents fear that impacts of sanctions on Russia would be weakened if Russia generated additional revenues from Nord Stream 2. They also question the economic benefits of the pipeline, said Noah Gordon, an analyst at the Center for European Reform.

Despite opposing the project, the European Commission says there are no legal grounds to halt the private investment.