US's Nord Stream 2 threats pose 'difficult gray area' for German diplomats - legal expert
The US government's threat of sanctions against companies involved in the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline project has led to angry calls of defiance by government officials and business leaders in Germany. But despite the questionable legality of potential US sanctions, diplomacy may be the only solution, Daniel Wetzel writes in Die Welt, citing legal expert Till Holterhus. The US threat of sanctions “is undoubtedly an unfriendly act," but it is also a “difficult gray area” from the perspective of international law, according to Holterhus, a professor and lecturer at the University of Göttingen’s Institute of International and European Law. Sanctions that would be enforced in the US, such as entry bans, exclusion from the US market and confiscation of US assets make the German government's assessement that the threatened action would be a case of "extraterritorial" sanctions disputable. In that case, it would be particularly problematic under international law. A solution to the transatlantic conflict therefore lies primarily in diplomacy, Holterhus adds.
The German federal government is still examining how it will react to possible US sanctions and has not ruled anything out. German foreign minister Heiko Maas has sounded an aggressive tone, saying Germany clearly rejects the extraterritorial sanctions and arguing that the US threats disregard European sovereignty, adding that Europe "can decide for itself where it gets its energy from." US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has tightened the US’ Countering America's Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA), immediately putting European companies helping to complete the pipeline between Russia and Germany at risk of US sanctions.