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8 Feb, 2019 13:43

France makes Germany sweat before striking deal on Russia’s Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline

France makes Germany sweat before striking deal on Russia’s Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline

Paris has settled on a compromise with Berlin, allowing Germany to remain the key negotiator with Russia on the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline to Europe.

The agreement follows the announcement by the French Foreign Ministry on Thursday that it would support the EU’s oversight of new offshore energy pipelines. The move could have derailed the undersea pipeline plans between Russia and Germany.

According to a copy of a draft obtained by AFP, the two EU countries agreed on Friday to ensure oversight will come from the “territory and territorial sea of the member state where the first interconnection point is located.”

The draft text replaced the older wording stating the EU rules on gas imports will be applied by “the territory of the member states” and/or the “territorial sea of the member states.”

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Diplomats said the draft compromise was submitted to a meeting of EU ambassadors discussing a revision of gas market rules for the 28-nation bloc.

The draft compromise reportedly addressed the concerns, saying: “We consider a (gas rules) directive in this spirit indispensable for a fruitful discussion on the future gas transit through Ukraine.”

A French diplomatic source told AFP that Paris was “not for or against Nord Stream 2.” He added, however, that it sought “guarantees for the security of Europe and for the security and stability of Ukraine.”

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The $11 billion Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline project is set to run from Russia to Germany under the Baltic Sea. It is expected to double the existing pipeline’s capacity of 55 billion cubic meters annually.

The EU bloc is divided over the project. Eastern European, Nordic and Baltic Sea countries oppose the pipeline, while those in northern Europe, especially Germany, prioritize the economic benefits.

For France, which relies more on nuclear energy than natural gas, the Nord Stream 2 project is not as critical as it is for Germany.

Germany has long been one of the main supporters of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline and resisted attempts to change the EU rules. Chancellor Angela Merkel, who has long been a proponent of the pipeline, responded to the Nord Stream 2 criticism on Friday.

“Do we become dependent on Russia because of this second gas pipeline? I say no, if we diversify. Germany will expand its gas terminals with liquefied gas,” she said at the Visegrad Summit in Jerusalem.

She reminded that “Russia was already a source of gas in the Cold War and will remain one, but it would not be one-sided dependency.”

The current EU regulations do not apply to pipelines like Nord Stream 2 but if the amendments were adopted, Brussels would gain leverage over the project.

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