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03 Sep 2020, 13:49
Benjamin Wehrmann Julian Wettengel

German politicians call to halt Nord Stream 2 following Navalny poisoning

Clean Energy Wire / ZDF / Deutschlandfunk

German politicians and long-time critics of the contentious natural gas project Nord Stream 2 have called on Europe to halt the construction of the pipeline after the poisoning of Russian opposition figurehead Alexei Navalny. Norbert Röttgen, a lawmaker with Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservative Christian Democratic Union (CDU), called for a “clear European response” and said “diplomatic rituals” would no longer suffice as a reaction to Russia’s “inhumane politics”. Given the poisoning and the situation in Belarus, the completion of Nord Stream 2 “would be the ultimate confirmation for Vladimir Putin that he is pursuing exactly the right policy because the West is doing nothing, at least in the areas that interest him," Röttgen told public broadcaster ZDF. Röttgen, the head of the foreign affairs committee in the German Bundestag, is running for the CDU chairmanship, which will likely be decided at a party conference in December.

The Greens’ parliamentary group head Katrin Göring-Eckardt said the “obvious attempted murder” calls for a “very clear response” from Germany and the EU. “Such a response, for example, would be to make it very clear: Nord Stream 2 is no longer something that we can drive forward together with Russia.”

At a press conference at the end of August, Merkel said she would like to treat the Navalny case and the pipeline project as two "separate" matters and that linking them “would not be appropriate." Merkel's comments came just days before doctors in Berlin, where the Russian opposition politician is being treated, confirmed that he had been poisoned with a powerful nerve agent used by Russian state actors in the past. Russia's government rejects the accusations.

According to public radio service Deutschlandfunk, Germany's neighbours are still wary of the project, especially fellow Baltic states Denmark and Poland. Charlotte Flindt Pedersen, director of the Danish Foreign Policy Society, told the radio station that despite having formally greenlighted the pipeline her country still regarded the matter with suspicion. She said Denmark shared the US government's security concerns. "There's little comprehension of the German decision to play into Russia's hands and become more dependent on their gas," Pedersen said, adding that a "more intensive dialogue" about the pipeline would have been welcome.  

In a new study, the German Institute for Economic Research (DIW) also questioned the pipeline's usefulness from an economic perspective. "The energy demand analyses on which the project is based clearly overestimate German and European natural gas consumption," the DIW study said. "On the supply side, there is no indication a gap will occur in case Nord Stream 2 is not built," it added.

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