21 Jan 2021, 14:09
Julian Wettengel

Merkel sticks with Nord Stream 2 despite mounting opposition in Germany and EU

Clean Energy Wire / Reuters

German chancellor Angela Merkel has reaffirmed her support for the contentious Russian-German pipeline Nord Stream 2, even as pressure from those opposing project increases by the day. “My basic attitude has not yet changed to the point where I say the project should not exist,” Merkel told journalists at a press conference in Berlin. As the new U.S. administration under president Joe Biden takes office, Merkel singled out the pipeline as one issue of disagreement. “Of course, we will talk about this with the new American administration,” she said. “But then we also have to talk about which economic relations in the gas sector with Russia are acceptable and which are not. And it is not like there are no trade relations at all between the USA and Russia, for example in the oil sector. We have to put that on the table and talk about whether we want to have no more trade at all with Russia in the gas sector – about what dependency is tolerable.”

Merkel’s comments come at a time of growing discontent with Nord Stream 2 in Germany. European Parliament lawmakers were expected to support a resolution on Thursday (21 January) calling for the bloc to stop its completion, in response to the arrest of Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny, reported Reuters. In Germany, there has been a lot of criticism in regards to attempts by a regional German government to set up a “climate foundation” to help shield companies involved in the pipeline construction against U.S. sanctions. The Klimaliste – a political grassroots movement aiming to have its members elected to German local and regional legislatures – became the latest group to attack Merkel's coalition partner in Berlin, the Social Democrats, over the issue. The group called on the national Social Democratic Party (SPD) leadership to “finally” stop its support for the project, which “only cements dependency on climate-harmful gas”. The SPD has long supported the project: former chancellor Gerhard Schröder is the chairman of the board of directors of the Nord Stream 2 AG, and the SPD leads the government coalition in the state that is setting up the foundation to help finish the pipeline.

Recent sanction threats and sanctions by the U.S. on companies involved in the project mean that it is unclear whether the pipeline can be completed. Construction was halted in December 2019 after the U.S. enacted a sanctions bill affecting companies working on the pipeline. The project has been contested since the early planning stages. Proponents argue the pipeline is a commercial investment that is key to Europe's supply security, while opponents criticise Nord Stream 2 on environmental, geopolitical and security grounds. Around 160 km of Nord Stream 2’s pipeline, most of which will be in Danish waters, still needs to be completed.

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