Scholz imposes sanctions covering the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline
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Days before Putin invaded Ukraine five weeks ago, one of Europe’s largest energy projects was halted indefinitely. Nord Stream 2 is the 1,200km gas pipeline that runs from Russia to Germany under the Baltic Sea. Completed in September, the pipeline runs parallel to the original Nord Stream, which has been operational since 2011. Had Nord Stream 2 opened, the two lines would have delivered 110 billion cubic metres of gas to Europe every year – more than a quarter of the EU’s total annual use.
Nord Stream 2 has long been controversial due to the power it gives Moscow over Europe’s energy security.
Kyiv has historically opposed the pipeline too, because of the revenues it would lose due to it bypassing pipelines on Ukrainian territory.
Nord Stream 2 hit a major hiccup in November last year as the German energy regulator temporarily halted the approval process for the line.
The reason given for the pause was due to legal concerns, with the German authorities saying that the consortium behind the pipeline must form a company to be given a licence.
However, the freeze on the pipeline’s certification came as Russia was amassing more than 100,000 troops near its border with Ukraine.
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Then, three months later, on February 22, Germany announced it was shelving the project altogether.
The move followed significant pressure from the US to scrap the project, amid fears about the level of control it would cede to Putin over European energy supplies.
The announcement came the day after the Kremlin strongman announced that Russia formally recognised the independence of two breakaway regions in eastern Ukraine.
The recognition of the self-proclaimed “Donetsk People’s Republic” and the “Luhansk People’s Republic”, which are controlled by Russia-backed rebels, was a precursor to the wider conflict.
The territories in Ukraine’s Donbas region saw some of the first attacks of Russia’s invasion of the country, which began on February 24.
Speaking before the war began, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said Nord Stream 2 needed to be shelved.
He said: “In light of the most recent developments, we must reassess the situation, in particular regarding Nord Stream 2.
The Chancellor, who only took over from Angela Merkel in December, said he had asked Germany’s economy ministry to withdraw a previous declaration that Nord Stream 2 did not pose a threat to energy supplies.
He said: “This sounds technical, but it is the necessary administrative step so that no certification of the pipeline can now take place.
“And without this certification, Nord Stream 2 cannot go into operation.”
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The German leader had no choice but to shut down the project in the face of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, according to Kristine Berzina, of the German Marshall Fund of the United States.
Speaking to CNBC this week, she said: “Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has killed off the Nord Stream 2 project.
“In short, it would be unthinkable for Germany or any other European country to do a U-turn and authorise the pipeline after Russia’s behaviour.
“Even functioning pipelines have a shaky future in Europe.
“The pipeline is frozen in its inactive state. Besides ensuring the safety and stability of the structure, I do not anticipate other uses for it.”
The US’ position on Nord Stream 2 was outlined by Ronald Smith, an oil and gas analyst at BCS Global Markets.
Speaking to Al Jazeera in February, he said: “Germany has been resisting pressure from the US, because it absolutely needs reliable gas supplies from Russia and, for all it is now one of the top exporters of liquified natural gas in the world, the US cannot replace Russia in that role as key gas supplier to Germany.”
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