Austria comments on use of Nord Stream 2 to pressure Russia
The Nord Stream 2 pipeline, which will bring Russian gas to Germany through the Baltic Sea, is a “European project” and should not be used to pressure Moscow politically, Austrian Chancellor Karl Nehammer has said.
In an interview published on Tuesday in the German newspaper Die Welt, Nehammer, who was elected chancellor earlier this month, was asked if the Austrian government will continue to support Nord Stream 2. He replied, “Of course,” adding that he expects the pipeline to begin operating soon.
“I don’t consider it necessary to connect Nord Stream 2 with Russia’s behavior in Ukraine,” he went on, referencing a recent political standoff between Moscow and Kiev. “The EU can only hurt itself by doing so. Nord Stream 2 doesn’t only serve Russia’s interests – Germany, Austria, and other EU countries will profit from it. Nord Stream 2 is a European project, which shouldn’t be used as a tool to pressure Moscow.”
Nehammer emphasized that Europe is betting on renewable energy sources in the future, but said that for now, it needs oil and gas. “This applies to Austria too,” he explained. “Nord Stream 2 is an important project that will give the European Union security where the supply of energy is concerned.”
The pipeline’s construction was carried out despite strong opposition from the US, Poland, and Ukraine. Kiev has consistently described Nord Stream 2 as a security threat, and in November, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmitry Kuleba took credit for delaying the project’s approval, saying, “Nord Stream 2 should have been operating and earning money a long time ago, but the fact that it still does not work and we are fighting against it is the result of our common endeavors.”
Ukraine stands to lose billions of dollars in energy transit fees when the pipeline is fully operational. In his Tuesday interview, Nehammer noted that he thinks "it is necessary to preserve the interests of Ukraine as a transit country.”
On Sunday, American Secretary of State Antony Blinken told reporters that the US would do what it could to obstruct Nord Stream 2’s operation “if Russia has renewed its aggression on Ukraine.”
The pipeline was fully completed in September, but has not yet begun operation because of difficulties in getting officially certified. In November, German regulators announced that Nord Stream 2’s operator, based in Switzerland, would need to register as a German company before the certification process could continue.
Russian energy company Gazprom has said that gas is ready to flow as soon as the project is given the green light.