01 Jul 2020, 13:15
Julian Wettengel

U.S. Nord Stream 2 sanctions encroachment on EU sovereignty – German officials, experts

Clean Energy Wire

German government officials, MPs and experts have criticised U.S. plans to tighten sanctions on the contentious natural gas pipeline project Nord Stream 2 (NS2) currently under construction in the Baltic Sea as an encroachment on EU sovereignty in a parliamentary hearing. Former German chancellor Gerhard Schröder, who has close ties to the Russian government and chairs Nord Stream 2’s board of directors, said there is no doubt that the U.S. attempt to “dictate the sovereign community of states such as the EU what to do” must be rejected. He said that diplomatic possibilities must be exploited, “but this will not work without counter sanctions”, without giving details. Schröder said natural gas would be needed as a bridging technology in Germany’s energy system for a very long time. But the former chancellor’s comments were met with criticism. His presence as a “badly informed Russian gas lobbyist is a disgrace for the highest government office”, said Alexander Reitzenstein, senior policy advisor at think tank E3G.
During the hearing, minister of state in the foreign office Niels Annen said “it is absurd that the U.S. Congress should act as a regulator of European issues. Imagine if we were to pass a resolution on American energy security in the Bundestag”.  Industry and research experts also weighed in on the implications of the pipeline project. “The danger I see is that in Germany we will short-sightedly focus on Nord Stream 2 when debating energy sovereignty, and on the EU level we will not be able to jointly tackle sovereignty due to the pipeline,” said Kirsten Westphal, senior associate at the German Institute for International and Security Affairs (SWP).

The natural gas pipeline has been the subject of heated debate for years. The project would allow additional Russian gas to flow directly to Germany. 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. The US Congress is preparing to tighten sanctions on NS2 it had imposed late last year, which led to a months-long construction delay. The new sanctions would be “a serious threat to the pipeline’s completion” and would affect 120 companies from western states, said Michael Harms, the managing director of industry lobby group German Eastern Business Association (OAOEV) at the hearing. The EU’s high representative for foreign affairs and security policy Josep Borrell said the bloc is preparing an enhanced sanction mechanism to improve Europe’s resilience to the effects of extra-territorial sanctions, news agency Reuters had reported.

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