The EU Commission asked the member states for a mandate to negotiate with Moscow a deal on the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline project despite Gazprom claiming that this step is unnecessary. The EU, however, said that it was seeking legal certainty regarding the offshore section of the pipeline as part of it lies outside the EU jurisdiction. The Commission’s legal services say internal market legislation is not applicable to the offshore parts of the pipeline. The Nord Steam 2 project claims that the EU’s Third Energy Package does not apply to the pipeline but the EU Commission says it applies to the onshore section.
Central European EU member states as well as the Baltic states and Denmark argue that the project will increase the bloc’s dependence on energy from Russia, which already supplies a third of the EU’s needs. This new route coupled with the Turkish Stream project is meant to bring Russian gas to Europe by bypassing Ukraine, thus siphoning off the former Soviet state, Poland, Romania, Bulgaria and the Czech and Slovak Republics from transit tax revenues. Its supporters, however, say that the project will make gas cheaper for European customers.
Council President Donald Tusk also has a negative opinion of the project. A few days ago he wrote to the Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker to inform him that the project would not serve for the best of the EU. The idea that the Commission should take over the North Stream 2 talks is not new. The Commission’s concern is that the pipeline must be backed by a legal framework. For the EU executive to take charge of the talks, at least 16 out of 28 member states must vote in favor as the decision is to be decided by qualified majority vote.