It’s a case of corporations versus governments: BASF, Shell, E.ON, the French utility company Engie and Russia’s Gazprom want it, several E.U. states, Brussels and Ukraine don’t. Now the battle lines over the construction of the Nord Stream 2 natural gas pipeline through the Baltic Sea are being drawn.
The plan is to build two additional pipelines next to the two existing Nord Stream pipelines between Russia and Germany, to open in 2019. This will enable more Russian gas to be pumped to central and southern Europe without having to route it through conflict-hit Ukraine, currently a major transit country. The corporations agreed to the construction in September, but now opposition is forming.
Germany will play a big part in the success or failure of Nord Stream 2, which will be managed by Russian state gas firm Gazprom. The corporations know German Vice Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel supports them. Opponents of the project hope German Chancellor Angela Merkel will intervene on their side. Mr. Gabriel has said it’s important that decisions on Nord Stream 2 are left up to Germany, and not Brussels, and that Ukraine must be guaranteed other gas transit rights.
But Kiev is opposing Nord Stream 2 with all its power, as are Slovakia and Latvia, who will also miss out on hundreds of millions in transit fees if the upgrade goes ahead. Robert Fico, the prime minister of Slovakia, has accused the pipeline’s backers of “making idiots of us.”