Controversial gas pipeline to Europe is again delayed

The start of construction of Nord Stream 2 in Russia in 2010.Image AP

The decision almost certainly means that no gas will flow through the 1,200-kilometer-long pipeline from Russia via the Baltic Sea to northern Germany next winter. After the new setback for the project became known, European gas prices immediately rose to the highest level in three weeks.

On the contrary, some countries had hoped for relief when Nord Stream 2 finally came into operation. But the regulator of the German energy network said on Tuesday that the operator of the pipeline, a Swiss company, is not eligible for the permit because it is not registered in Germany.

Disappointment for Gazprom

It is unclear how long it will take for the Swiss company to establish a firm under German law. In any case, it is a major setback for Russian state energy company Gazprom, which hoped Nord Stream 2 could finally be commissioned this year.

The construction of the billion-dollar pipeline was finally completed earlier this year, after it had been delayed for years by opposition from the United States in particular. They threatened with sanctions against companies and even persons involved in the construction. The US, but also some European countries, are against the pipeline because it allows Russia to bypass Ukraine and Poland as transit countries. That would give the Kremlin the opportunity to put pressure on those countries by turning off the gas, without customers in other European countries being affected.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, however, remained behind the project. According to her, it was a purely commercial project in which the German government should not interfere.

US sanctions

President Donald Trump in particular was strongly opposed to the project, according to some also because he hoped it would give him more room for the export of shale gas from the US on the European market. Fearing US sanctions, several companies, including the Swiss-Dutch company Allseas, hastily withdrew from the project.

After taking office, President Joe Biden decided to waive sanctions “in the interest of the United States.” According to him, these disrupted relations with the European allies, especially Germany. Now the project again encounters a new obstacle.

Ukraine was delighted to hear about the delay. Kiev hopes it can still get guarantees that the gas supply through the pipeline will not be at the expense of its position as a transit country for Russian gas. The country earns billions of euros every year with this.

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