The European Commission said last week that it would speed up talks with Russia over a new gas pipeline to Germany despite a lack of unity among member states. Brussels is concerned that Nord Stream 2 pipeline would further increase the bloc’s dependence on Russian gas and decrease transit revenues for Ukraine, which the pipeline is trying to bypass by crossing the Baltic Sea. Due to the controversial nature of this issue, Brussels has been trying to get the backing from member states to negotiate with Moscow.
However, Germany, the EU’s biggest economy and the main recipient-to-be of Nord Stream 2 thinks that the EU should not get involved in the negotiations. The issue was brought up at the EU summit last week after which European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker acknowledged that Nord Stream 2 was indeed a polarizing issue for member states. “I don’t feel we will have unanimity on this issue in the coming months but the Commission still feels it would be useful that it be granted a negotiating mandate,” Mr. Juncker commented.
Eastern European and Baltic Sea states fear that the project gives more power to Moscow, while Germany and other northern European countries see a commercial benefit. At the same time, Nordic countries are concerned over the pipeline being laid close to their shores where Russia has already boosted its military presence. “The political dimension of this project is obvious, but there are countries which say this is a purely commercial project,” Polish Prime Minster Beata Szydlo commented. However, her Austrian counterpart Christian Kern that the decision over the pipeline should not be founded on criticism toward the Kremlin.