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27 Aug, 2007 14:51

Poland spoils Nord Stream's game

Nord Stream, the company in charge of the new gas pipeline linking Russia with Western Europe, has said its decision to re-route the pipeline does not require new environmental checks. This comes after Poland called for a second round of inspections.

In its latest twist, Poland has called for additional environmental checks after a decision to re-route the pipeline. Experts say there is more behind the move than concern for the environment.

“This project is aimed to send gas to Gazprom's main Western European consumers bypassing Poland. Obviously Poland has been able to exploit its position as a transit territory for Gazprom's gas deliveries to Western Europe. And loss of this interest is quite disappointing for Poland,” says Ivan Mazalov, Prosperity Capital managing director.
And this is not the first Polish attempt 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.

To avoid a delay due to the unsettled border line issues, Nord Stream decided to re-route the pipeline north of the Island.

But the company says the new route does not require a new series of environmental checks.

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

“Sweden is the weakest link in the chain. Sweden is not interested in buying Russian gas. Therefore it's quite logical that Poland is expected to find sympathy primarily with the Swedish,” Ivan Mazalov believes.

The initial ecological assessment has cost more than $50 MLN. And 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.