During the last half year, gas pipe Nord Stream 2 discussions have heated up both in Brussels and in former Eastern bloc. Lobbying by builders is in top gear. The main confrontation is between critical politicians claiming this is security threat to Europe, and the builders who say it is pure business.
Currently, the undersea gas pipe is still in planning stage but the work to get it built is underway, to be completed by 2019.
While environmental impact is in all likelihood not going to be a problem, and the German energy market players will be basically pleased, politics may prove an obstacle. Namely, nine prime ministers of Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Slovakia, Hungary, Czech Republic, Romania and Croatia have addressed the European Commission asking Brussels to analyse compatibility of the project with EU energy policy goals.
Within the commission, energy commissioner Maroš Šefčovič has voiced concerns claiming transit pipe via Ukraine would become very costly and complicated.
In some ways, Mr Šefčovič may be troubled regarding economic loss for his native Slovakia as well as Ukraine largely dependent on gas transit fees. The more so that in Eastern Ukraine, separatists still spell trouble.
Tellingly, a party in the deal is Russia’s Gazprom owning 50 percent of Nord Stream 2 AG, the rest being five West-European energy giants Uniper, OMV, Shell, Wintershall and Engie.
Lobby in Estonia
To grease Estonian powers, the gas pipe builders have sent a hired expert to explain environmental impact. In April, Baltic representative for the project Romans Baumanis was in Tallinn to meet Estonian journalist. To explain the pipe is pure business and far from politics.
And it just so happened that parallel to all that, the orchestra Baltic Sea Philharmonic held concerts in Lithuanian, Latvia, Finland and Russia. The orchestra is sponsored by Nord Stream AG and Gazprombank, Nord Stream also being among its founders. A classic example of soft power.
At the end of the day, what matters most is support towards the project by German politicians. Chancellor Angela Merkel has been supportive, saying the project is pure business with several private enterprises behind it as well. She did mention, last December, that it is important to maintain Ukraine’s role as gas transit country.
Nord Stream key people
Matthias Warnig (60)
Head of companies building Nord Stream 1 and Nord Stream 2. Begun his career in former Eastern Germany, at security service Stasi. Allegedly, Mr Warnig and Russian president Vladimir Putin worked together in Stasi to recruit people in West Germany to work for KGB. Mr Putin and Mr Warnig are considered good friends.
Gerhard Schröder (72)
Former chancellor of Germany who just before end of term in office, as the Nord Stream 1 contract was entered, granted guarantee for €1bn for the project though it was never needed. Soon after, he became chairman of the group which built Nord Stream 1. Afterwards, he has on several occasions supported political steps by Vladimir Putin. Notably, Putin attended 70th birthday of Mr Schröder with Matthias Warnig.