28 Jun 2021, 13:33
Benjamin Wehrmann

German chancellor candidates ready to pull plug on Nord Stream 2 if need be

The contenders from Germany's governing parties to become Germany's next chancellor have both signalled their readiness to shutter the contentious Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline if the Russian government engaged in activities considered hostile by Germany and its allies. During a televised debate on national broadcast service ARD, conservative frontrunner Armin Laschet of the CDU and SPD top candidate Olaf Scholz agreed that the yet-to-be-completed offshore pipeline, which has led to significant disputes between Germany and its EU neighbours as well as with the US government, could be taken out of service even after completion if Russia fails to abide by regulations, for example by threatening to cut gas supplies through Ukraine. Laschet said Russian president Vladimir Putin would have to "play by the rules" to ensure the pipeline remains operational, while Scholz warned that Nord Steam 2 could be cut off "just like that" should Putin waive the guarantees made in response to geopolitical reservations about the project.

Green Party hopeful Annalena Baerbock, who also participated in the ARD debate, said she doubts that the plug could be pulled easily on the pipeline once it has begun delivering gas to Germany, for example due to high demand for heating gas during winter. She called for halting the project altogether instead, arguing that the last outstanding construction licenses for Nord Stream 2 should not be issued. "The German government's position is completely at odds with the EU's approach," she argued. All three candidates agreed that climate change will be a key issue for the next government and all three also pledged that reinvigorating transatlantic relations and bolstering EU cohesion would be central challenges for the next chancellor.

Germany has been debating a stop to the pipeline project, which has been contested by stakeholders in Germany, several of the country's neighbours and the United States government. Nord Stream 2 is to transport natural gas directly from Russia to Germany through twin pipelines underneath the Baltic Sea. Proponents argue the pipeline is a commercial investment that is key to Europe's supply security as domestic natural gas production declines, while opponents criticise Nord Stream 2 on environmental, geopolitical, and security grounds.

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