France, Germany compromise on Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline – media
France and Germany have struck a compromise allowing Berlin to remain the lead negotiator with Russia on the Nord Stream II gas pipeline to Europe, reports news agency AFP. The European Commission had wanted to change EU law so that in the future, gas pipelines connecting non-member states to the EU fall under EU oversight, and thus stricter rules. Until now, France had supported Germany in its opposition to the new rules, but the French foreign ministry surprisingly announced it intends to support the adoption of the gas directive amendment in a meeting of member states representatives in Brussels today. The two EU countries have now agreed to ensure oversight will come from the "territory and territorial sea of the member state where the first interconnection point is located," according to a copy of the draft proposal obtained by AFP. In the case of Nord Stream 2, this would be Germany.
The original Commission proposal would have meant that, for example, the owner of the pipeline arriving in the EU and the gas supplier cannot be the same company – which is the case with Gazprom and Nord Stream, and could have presented a significant hurdle for the project. In today’s meeting, member state representatives aim to decide whether to start talks with the European Parliament on the proposed amendments, so the legislative process is set to continue. According to the Handelsblatt, the new rules could well be adopted before elections in May, and critics of Nord Stream 2 have a clear majority in the European Parliament.
The Nord Stream 2 natural gas pipeline, currently under construction under the Baltic Sea, has been the subject of heated debates for years. The project, scheduled for completion in late 2019, would allow additional Russian gas to flow directly to Germany. Proponents from industry and the German government argue the pipeline is a commercial investment and is key to Europe's supply security, while opponents, including some government coalition parliamentarians, object to Nord Stream 2 on environmental, geopolitical and security grounds. US ambassador to Germany Richard Grenell has repeatedly warned of a growing reliance of Europe on Russian gas, and the United States is pushing its LNG exports to Europe.