Countries must play bigger roles in Europe's gas debate, speakers say

June 8, 2017

Eastern and central European countries have done the most so far to start reducing their heavy reliance on Russia for their natural gas supplies, speakers generally agreed at a June 7 Atlantic Council discussion. But other nations will need to become more heavily involved as the European Commission addresses competition and political issues surrounding the Nord Stream 2 pipeline project, they added.

Nord Stream 2 would extend more than 1,200 km from Russia’s coast beneath the Baltic Sea to landfall near Greifswald in Germany, according to its sponsor, Russian gas giant Gazprom. It largely would follow the route of the Nord Stream 1 pipeline, which reached 80% of its total transmission capacity in 2016 when about 43.7 billion cu m of gas was delivered, Gazprom says.

“This is an important moment. The EC is forming a mandate on how it will talk to Russia about this. It’s essential that every country in Europe participate in the discussion,” said Mary B. Warlick, acting special envoy and coordinator for international energy affairs at the US Department of State, at the Atlantic Council event.

The proposed pipeline’s capacity, combined with the already operating Nord Stream 1, potentially could lead to Europe’s gas supplies being met along a single route, Warlick said. “This administration believes that all member states need to be in on the conversation to make sure that all [European Union] requirements are addressed,” she said.

Officials from four central and eastern European governments agreed. “From the very beginning, Slovakia has been against this project because it could undermine the energy union that has formed,” said Ambassador Jan Kuderjavy, economic diplomacy director in that country’s foreign and European affairs ministry. “It’s also a direct threat to us. If Nord Stream 2 becomes operational, it could restrict our supplies.”

The pipeline is essentially a political, not and economic, project, said Piotr Naimski who, as Poland’s plenipotentiary for strategic energy infrastructure, has full authority to act on the government’s behalf in international energy matters. “It’s being used as a political weapon against Ukraine, which could lose $2 billion/year in transit fees. It’s against Poland’s...

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