19 Apr 2022, 13:25
Julian Wettengel

Regional leader under pressure over support for Nord Stream 2

Clean Energy Wire / FAZ / Welt am Sonntag / t-online

Leading German politicians have called for a probe into the role played by Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania's state premier Manuela Schwesig in the controversial Russian-German natural gas pipeline project Nord Stream 2. The pipeline makes landfall in the northern German state and the Social Democrat (SPD) Schwesig and her government have openly supported it for years. Early last year, the government pushed to establish a foundation to shield it against U.S. sanctions, and Schwesig argued Nord Stream 2 was “necessary for the success of the energy transition,” with natural gas as a bridging fuel. The "Climate and Environmental Protection Foundation" received an initial sum of 20 million euros from Nord Stream 2 AG – wholly owned by Russian energy company Gazprom – and 200,000 euros from the state. Newspaper Welt am Sonntag has recently reported that the state government and Nord Stream 2 AG “worked closely together” to establish the foundation. Documents seen by Welt showed that the government had “acted like a branch of the Nord Stream 2 AG,” incorporating the company’s wishes in setting up the foundation.

Several media, including Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, now reported that leading politicians have called for a probe into Schwesig’s role. “How the government in Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania made itself a henchman of Nord Stream 2 in order to promote the construction of the Baltic Sea pipeline urgently needs to be investigated,” said Green Party MP Anton Hofreiter. Media, such as t-online, reported many meetings between Schwesig and representatives of Nord Stream 2 AG ahead of the establishment of the foundation. They also met with former German chancellor Gerhard Schröder, who has long been under fire for his involvement in Russian energy companies Rosneft and Gazprom, as well as in the controversial pipeline. The opposition parties in the state have already requested a parliamentary committee of inquiry into the government’s role in the foundation. Schwesig has acknowledged holding talks with Nord Stream 2, but said that “we in the state government and in the state parliament made our decisions ourselves and no one else,” reported news agency dpa.

After Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Schwesig had said she regretted her insistence on finishing Nord Stream 2. “With my knowledge today, insisting on Nord Stream 2 has been a mistake,” Schwesig said, adding that the foundation would be dissolved. Germany’s federal government has also supported the highly controversial Nord Stream 2 pipeline project for years, alienating partners in Europe and the U.S., while insisting that it was a commercial project without political implications. In 2018, then-chancellor Angela Merkel finally acknowledged concerns by the Ukrainian government and said the pipeline “is not just an economic project, but that, of course, political factors must also be taken into account.” Still, the government continued its support, as did the new coalition under chancellor Olaf Scholz until shortly before Russia started its war against Ukraine. Scholz put the certification process for the already completed gas link on hold on 22 February 2022, after Russian president Vladimir Putin formally recognised two breakaway regions in eastern Ukraine – two days before the invasion.

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