German Foreign Minister under pressure following sanctions against Nord Stream 2 | Germany



Germany’s new Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock has been caught off guard for the past few days as the United States presses the coalition government in Berlin to promise to block the Nord Stream 2 pipeline in case Russia would invade Ukraine.

The controversial gas pipeline project, which runs from Ust-Luga in Russia to Lubmin in northeastern Germany, is also expected to be the first test of the new German government’s unity of approach.

Baerbock, the 40-year-old Green co-leader, has long opposed the near-completed giant pipeline, but the German coalition platform is silent on the issue, due to support for the Social Democrats’ project under new German Chancellor Olaf Scholz.

As NATO and Europe prepared a deterrent program designed to scare Russia away from a military incursion into Ukraine, the Biden administration, with strong support from the UK, Poland and the Baltic states, demands that the pipeline be included in a wider sanctions package if Russia sends troops to Ukraine.

Germany is expected to agree, but on terms that could be negotiated within the government and reveal to what extent Baerbock is being forced to submit to Scholz’s control over politics. foreign.

Speaking Thursday in Paris alongside French Foreign Minister Jean Yves Le Drian, Baerbock said: “Ukraine’s territorial integrity and sovereignty are not negotiable for us. Russia would pay a high political and economic price for yet another violation of the Ukrainian state. ”

In opposition, Baerbock said the pipeline only benefits Putin’s regime, destabilizes Ukraine, contradicts EU climate change goals and clashes with Europe’s geostrategic interests. Scholz was more evasive on the subject, fully aware of the pipeline champions in the SPD ranks.

The energy link is supported not only by former Chancellor Gerhard Schröder, now chairman of the board of directors of Nord Stream, but also by the center-left party branch in Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, where the locals hope to draw economic benefits once gas begins to flow under the Baltic Sea.

Scholz has indicated that he will not let his Green Coalition partners dictate his government’s language around Nord Stream 2. “The whole country is being watched by the world,” he said. “This is why, as a government, we will act in unison – and it starts with the head of government. “

“We have a very clear attitude: we want everyone’s borders to be respected,” Scholz told Die Welt newspaper on Wednesday. “Everyone understands that there will be consequences if they don’t.” The new chancellor did not go so far as to threaten to abandon the project.

Russian gas company Gazprom built the pipeline at a cost of 9.5 billion euros (£ 8.1 billion), overcoming objections from the United States, Poland and Ukraine, and is now waiting German regulatory certification, currently refused due to legal technicality concerning the independence of Nord Stream as a transport operator of Gazprom.

When fully operational, the pipeline will transport 55 billion cubic meters of gas to Germany each year, equivalent to around 15% of the EU’s total gas imports.

The United States in July backed down from sanctions against German companies involved in Nord Stream, but said that while there was evidence of Russian efforts to use the pipeline or gas supply as a means of forcing wider political or economic concessions, they could come back.

“If Vladimir Putin wants to see gas flowing through this pipeline, he may not want to take the risk of invading Ukraine,” US national security adviser Jake Sullivan said on Tuesday after a conversation between Putin. and US President Joe Biden. The measure enjoys strong support in the US Congress.

Baerbock also came under pressure from Poland on the issue ahead of a visit to Warsaw on Friday. “I will call on Chancellor Scholz not to give in to pressure from Russia and not to allow Nord Stream 2 to be used as an instrument of blackmail against Ukraine, instrument of blackmail against Poland, instrument of blackmail against the Union European Union, ”Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said during a visit to Rome.

Even if sanctions are not imposed immediately, Germany’s new government will need to clarify whether it wants the pipeline to continue if the threat to Ukraine is lifted.

It is not known on what legal basis the pipeline, long presented by the previous German government as an economic project with virtually no geopolitical consequences, should be authorized under European Union energy competition laws.

EU rules require ‘unbundling’, whereby companies producing, transporting and distributing gas within the EU are separate legal entities and a gas pipeline such as Nord Stream 2 can be used by third parties with a non-discriminatory and transparent tariff structure.

The Nord Stream issue is part of the self-imposed pressure on the new German government to place greater emphasis on human rights and values ​​in foreign policy.

With France refusing to join the diplomatic boycott of the Beijing Olympics, Baerbock said Germany would make its decision together with its European friends. France is due to host the Summer Olympics in 2024 and is reluctant to see the tournament become a victim of geopolitics.

After his visit to Warsaw on Friday, Baerbock will travel to Liverpool for a meeting of G7 foreign ministers in the UK.

The Liberal Democratic Party (FDP), the third coalition partner in the German “traffic light” government, has also taken a stand against the pipeline.

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