EU Lawmakers Voice Doubts Over Approval for Nord Stream 2
(Bloomberg) -- A group of European Union lawmakers questioned the Nord Stream 2 pipeline’s compliance with the bloc’s laws, underscoring tensions over the controversial project to ship Russian gas to Europe amid an unprecedented energy crisis.
The European Commission should adopt interim measures against Russia’s exporter Gazprom PJSC if Nord Stream 2 starts operating before obtaining the necessary EU regulatory approvals, Parliament members representing five of the biggest political groups wrote in a letter to EU Energy Commissioner Kadri Simson that’s been seen by Bloomberg News.
“We cannot agree on any solutions that would circumvent EU law putting energy security of the Union in danger,” said the lawmakers, led by Poland’s Jerzy Buzek, who in the past guided the assembly’s work on the gas market rules. “The EU shall never compromise its law towards a third country.”
The lawmakers’ concern comes as Gazprom announced this week it started pumping gas into the pipeline for testing, just as a supply crunch pushed European energy costs to all-time highs. Gas prices have more than tripled this year as increased demand coincided with reduced supplies in a threat to the region’s economic recovery.
Nord Stream 2, built to carry gas to Germany under the Baltic Sea, needs approval from the energy regulator in Berlin to start operating commercially. The company applied on Sept. 8 for certification as an independent transmission operator in a procedure that can take up to four months. Once the German authorities make a decision, it will be sent to the European Commission for an opinion.
Nord Stream 2 doesn’t currently fulfill the EU’s unbundling criteria as an independent operator because of its connection with Gazprom, a leading gas supplier to Europe, the lawmakers wrote. Also, with the EU having no legal powers outside the region, it’s impossible to guarantee independent regulatory oversight for the company.
Under Nord Stream 2’s current structure, granting it approval as an operator puts at risk the security of energy supply into the EU, the lawmakers said.
The EU executive arm should exercise all its powers to ensure the project fully complies with the bloc’s Gas Directive law, according to the lawmakers, who also include the Socialists’ Dan Nica, the Liberal’s Morten Petersen, the Green’s Rebecca Harms and Conservatives’ Zdzislaw Krasnodebski.
“The first step in this direction would be a clear and robust Commission opinion in the certification procedure in accordance with the Gas Directive,” they said. The EU will have two months to examine the German decision, with a possibility to extend the period by another two months under certain conditions.
Gazprom’s actions such as limiting deliveries and pipeline capacity at existing routes or keeping storage levels lower than usual raise the suspicion of strategic behavior, according to the letter. The Parliament members said the Russian company and the country’s government are deliberately seeking to create an impression that the new gas link is indispensable to secure supplies for Europe this winter.
“Still, Nord Stream 2 seems to be a part of the problem, not part of the solution,” they wrote.
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