On 12 March, the European Parliament adopted a resolution targeting the Nord Stream 2 project. Speaking to Sputnik, energy experts and scholars provided their assessment of the rationale behind the move and its potential consequences for the implementation of the Russo-European energy endeavour.
The newly adopted non-binding resolution targeting Nord Stream 2 would not change the legal framework governing the implementation of the project, spokesperson for the Nord Stream 2 project Jens D. Mueller told Sputnik.
“We take note that the European Parliament today adopted a non-binding political resolution on the state of EU-Russia relations”, spokesperson for the Nord Stream 2 project Jens D. Mueller told Sputnik. “Irrespective of political declarations, the implementation of Nord Stream 2 is governed by a binding legal framework that has also been shaped by the European Parliament; the legal framework consists of EU law, international conventions and national legislation of the countries along the planned route”.
Mueller emphasised that “all works are determined by valid permits from the competent authorities of the EU Member States along the route of the pipeline”.
“Nord Stream 2 complies with this binding legal framework”, he said, stressing that “the non-binding political resolution on the state of EU-Russia relations by the European Parliament does not change the legal framework governing the implementation of Nord Stream 2”.
Mueller underscored that “Nord Stream 2 will make a positive contribution to the Energy Union objectives by securing an additional route of gas supply for the import of additional volumes” since “Europe’s gas demand outlook makes a compelling case for this investment, which is fully compatible with the continued imports of gas through existing routes”.
Newly-Adopted Resolution Will Have no Practical Effect
Energy expert Dr Christian Wipperfuhrth echoed Mueller, suggesting that the newly-adopted resolution would have no “practical” effect on the Russia-led project.
“The European Parliament’s field of action is rather limited, and MEPs are trying to compensate for this limitation by using particularly tough statements. We should not worry too much about it. Tough statements are traditionally heard from the European Parliament”, Wipperfuhrth told Sputnik Germany.
It is not the first time the European legislative body has passed a document targeting the project. Earlier, on 12 December 2018, the EP passed a non-binding resolution calling for the cancellation of the pipeline’s construction.
The energy expert does not expect any impressive actions on the part of Brussels, since the German federal government and businesses have made it clear that there is no alternative to Nord Stream 2.
Wipperfuhrth highlighted that the US could not deliver enough hydrocarbons to the EU to meet the needs of European customers, while American liquefied natural gas (LNG) was no replacement for Russia’s cheap fuel.
Berlin has long been one of the most influential proponents of the endeavour, which may turn Germany into one of the major energy hubs in Europe.
However, according to Bill Ravotti, moderator of the V4 Report, the EP’s 12 March vote “could be a combination of election posturing and internal games by [French President] Macron and [German Chancellor] Merkel”.
“First, the EU Parliament is somewhat toothless; it’s a nice theatre for Guy Verhofstadt to hear himself talk, but the resolution is not binding… and it does not matter. The powers of France and Berlin with approval of [the] EU Commission seem to be deciding this issue. In end, it’s typical of Merkel and Germany. They will prevail, while trying to boost [the] reputation of Macron”, Ravotti presumed.
Six Reasons Why Nord Stream 2 is Unstoppable
Dr Mamdouh G. Salameh, one of the world’s leading experts on oil and visiting professor of energy economics at the ESCP Europe Business School in London, also expressed scepticism over the EP’s recent initiative.
He drew attention to the fact that “the adoption of the resolution comes just weeks after Germany, a strong supporter of the Nord Stream 2, secured extending internal EU market regulations to pipelines to and from non-EU countries running through Europe, which includes the project, after reaching a compromise with France on the matter”.
Salameh outlined six reasons why Nord Stream 2 is “unstoppable”: First, Germany and Russia views Nord Stream 2 as an economic project; second, even if the US imposes sanctions on the endeavour, Germany and Russia’s gas giant Gazprom “can finance the project without any need to borrow money”; third, German Chancellor Angela Merkel would have never succumbed to US threats of sanctions against her country; fourth, “Nord Stream 2 will bring extra Russian gas supplies to the EU at a time when the EU demand for gas and LNG is growing by leaps and bounds”.
Meanwhile, “the International Energy Agency (IEA) is projecting that EU gas production will halve by 2040”, the energy expert warned.
“A fifth factor is that the majority of Europeans believe that US opposition to Nord Stream 2 has far less to do with Russia’s tightening its grip on the EU gas market and far more to do with self-interest, namely replacing Russian piped gas with US LNG exports”, Salameh highlighted, adding that finally, “US LNG prices can never match the price of Russian piped gas”.
EP Resolution Doesn’t Represent Interests of Ordinary Europeans
Andy Vermaut, a Belgian human rights activist, argues that the document, which passed by 402 votes to 163, with 89 abstentions, does not represent “the ordinary people and the ordinary interests of ordinary people in Europe”.
“Productivity is one of the components in a steady, reasonable energy strategy”, the human rights activist underscored. “The Nord Stream 2 project offers a gigantic potential in the European region. The Nord Stream 2 project will contribute to energy security in the European Union with a constant energy supply”.
Europe Remains ‘Extremely Split’ on Nord Stream 2
Commenting on the EP resolution and its potential consequences for EU-Russian relations, Ben Aris, editor-in-chief of Business News Europe, pointed out that “Europe is not unified on this question, in fact it is extremely split”.
“On the one hand you have the Baltic States and countries like Poland, who are vehemently opposed to Nord Stream 2. And on the other hand, you have countries, particularly Germany, which is very keen on Nord Stream 2”, he noted.
Nord Stream 2 Dividing EU Into Two Camps
The Nord Stream 2 project continues to provoke heated debate in the European bloc, de facto dividing it into two camps — the proponents and the antagonists of the project.
Those who relentlessly advocate nixing the project — most notably Poland, Ukraine, and the Baltic States — are receiving strong backing from Washington.
On 11 March, The Wall Street Journal reported that the White House had decided to switch to imposing sanctions on Nord Stream 2. Citing anonymous sources familiar with the matter, the media claimed that the alleged restrictions would reportedly affect the project’s investors and companies employed in laying pipe for the pipeline.
However, on 12 March, Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Chairwoman Lisa Murkowski told Sputnik that although the US concerns over Nord Stream 2 had been “part of the discussion”, the US Senate had not been considering any legislationthat would impose sanctions on the pipeline project.
Earlier, in January 2019, US Ambassador to Germany Richard Grenell sent letters to German companies involved in the Nord Stream 2 initiative, warning them about a “significant risk of sanctions” from the US. The move prompted criticism from both German businessmen and officials.
Nord Stream 2 is an extension of the existing Nord Stream route, designed to increase the overall annual capacity of Russian energy deliveries to Europe to 110 billion cubic metres (3.9 trillion cubic feet).
The views and opinions expressed by the speakers do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.