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28 Aug, 2007 05:01

Poland calls for another environmental check of Nord Stream

Nord Stream, the company in charge of the new gas pipeline linking Russia with Western Europe, has told RT its decision to re-route the pipeline does not, as Poland insists, require new environmental checks.

In the latest twist, Poland has called for additional environmental checks after a decision to re-route the pipeline, which had become the subject of controversy.

Experts say there is more behind the move than concern for the environment.

“This project is designed to send gas to Gazprom's main Western European consumers  while bypassing Poland. Obviously Poland has been able to exploit its position as a transit territory for Gazprom's gas deliveries to Western Europe. Loss of this position is quite disappointing for Poland,” commented Ivan Mazalov, Managing Director of Prosperity Capital.

This is not the first attempt by Poland to derail the project. Ironically, one of the main reasons why the route was changed was Poland's claim on the maritime border with Denmark. Nord Stream was originally supposed to run south of the Danish island of Bornholm. However in order to avoid a delay due to the unsettled border line issues, Nord Stream decided to re-route the pipeline north of the island, maintaining that the new route does not require a new series of environmental checks.

“The research of these new environment impact procedures is not necessary as re-routing represents just an essential outcome of the outgoing procedure in line with the international law,” explained Irina Vasilyeva, spokesperson of Nord Stream AG.

Under the new plan, the pipeline will pass through the economic zones of Russia, Finland, Sweden, Denmark and Germany. Although Poland cannot legally block the project, it can influence the positions of the countries directly involved.

“Sweden is the weakest link in the chain. Sweden is not interested in buying Russian gas. Therefore it is quite logical that Poland is expecting to find sympathy primarily from the Swedish,” pointed out Ivan Mazalov.

The initial ecological assessment has cost more than $US 50 MLN. Experts say additional checks could further delay the project. While Nord Stream is supposed to link Russia and Europe, it is also an issue on which countries remain divided.