German MEP's view critical for Nord Stream II: expert
- I’ve never seen a project that was heralded as a purely commercial one so intensely politically debated: VP Sefcovic of EC

The views of German MEP Manfred Weber, as head of the largest party in the European Parliament (EP) and a senior politician whose party is allied to Chancellor Merkel’s party in the EP, carries political weight in Germany and the EU over the Nord Stream II gas project, said co-director of the Center for Energy Science and Policy at George Mason University on Thursday.

Manfred Weber, chairman of the center-right European People’s party from Germany wrote a letter to Sigmar Gabriel, Germany's economy and energy minister, and Miguel Arias Canete, EU energy commissioner last week stating his opposition to the Nord Stream II gas pipeline project.

Weber said the project does not comply with the EU's energy security policy and could increase the EU's energy dependence on Russia.

Richard Kauzlarich from George Mason University said the Nord Stream II has always been a political rather than a commercial project and is designed to divert existing gas flows to Europe through Ukraine as a means for Russia to economically punish Ukraine.

"Weber seems to recognize this. It is unclear how the European Commission will rule on the Nord Stream II," Kauzlarich noted.

Weber said the project does not comply with the EU's energy security policy and could increase the EU's energy dependence on Russia.

- "Third Energy Package"

George Vlad Niculescu, head of research at the European Geopolitical Forum, a Brussels-based think tank said that Weber's statement should be seen within the wider context of the ongoing debate within European institutions regarding the compatibility of the Nord Stream II with the Third Energy Package of the EU.

The Third Energy Package concerns the possibility of gas pipelines flowing through a number of countries with permission for third countries and/or parties to use a determined share of the pipeline's capacity.

"In that vein, one should also take into account the recent statement by Maros Sefcovic, vice-president of the European Commission in charge of the Energy Union: 'This project is polarizing EU member states. I’ve never seen a project that was heralded as a purely commercial one so intensely politically debated, not only by the ministers of energy, but also by the ministers of foreign affairs and by the heads of state and government, and we never received so many letters from the highest representatives of our member states," Niculescu said.

Niculescu said that supporters of Nord Stream II basically argue that this project should not be subject to the Third Energy Package because it will not cross EU territory, but will run mainly through international waters in the Baltic Sea.

"Mr. Weber, as other opponents against the project, argued that it was critical to resist that potential loophole and for Brussels to insist the project comply with the Third Energy Package,” he said.

"The project should also be denied of any European financial support. However, beyond this apparently technical/policy implementation intra-EU debate, there is a high geopolitical stake behind the controversy currently surrounding the Nord Stream II project. That is Ukraine, and the prospects of future relations between Russia and the West," he said and added that it is evident that the Nord Stream II would strike a fatal blow for the transit of Russian gas via Ukraine - which is a significant source of cash for the cash-strapped government in Kiev.

"The supporters of a European [as opposed to Eurasian] Ukraine would definitely not want to see the Nord Stream II operational ever. On the other hand, those who see Ukraine as a neutral partner of both the EU and the Eurasian Economic Union (EEU), or who do not care much about the independence of Ukraine against their interests for doing good business with Russia, support the Nord Stream II," he stressed.

The Nord Stream II project was announced on June 18, when global energy giant Royal Dutch Shell, Russia’s Gazprom, Germany’s E.ON and BASF, along with Austrian OMV signed a memorandum of understanding for the construction of the project, which plans to construct two additional lines to the original Nord Stream.

Russia's Gazprom owns 51 percent of the shares in the $10 billion project that plans to deliver gas with a capacity of 55 billion cubic meters beneath the Baltic Sea through a 1,200 kilometer-route to Germany. The project plans to bring gas to France, the U.K., the Netherlands and Denmark.

- Domestic politics is now entering the picture

Marco Giuli, a policy analyst from the Brussels-based European Policy Centre said the EP should put its political weight behind the EU Commission in opposition to the expansion of the Nord Stream II project.

"The voice of MEP Weber, a prominent member of the German Chancellor’s sister-party CSU, is particularly relevant as it exposes different views existing within the German political establishment regarding the project, and regarding EU-Russia relations in general," he said.

According to Giuli, the EU Commission, and in particular Vice-President Sefcovic in charge of the Energy Union, have been adamant in their opposition to the Nord Stream II, however their influence remains limited.

"There are significant doubts concerning the effectiveness of the Third Energy Package to stop the project. As such, the letter seems more geared at leveraging Angela Merkel’s cautiousness about a re-engagement with Russia. Clearly, Germany is the key country for the Nord Stream to move forward, and domestic politics is now entering the picture," Giuli said.

By Murat Temizer

Anadolu Agency




05 May,2016