American diplomats are urging European countries to revise their Gas Directive and to adopt amendments that would extend the EU’s regulations to companies from third countries, including the Nord Stream 2 project. The US ambassadors to Germany, Denmark and the EU, Richard Grenell, Carla Sands and Gordon Sondland, wrote about this in an opinion article for Deutsche Welle.
“The EU should revise the Third Energy Package's Gas Directive so that the bloc's laws also apply to projects like Nord Stream 2. Why should non-EU companies, like Gazprom, be allowed to distort competition in Europe's gas market while being held to a lower standard than EU companies?” the diplomats write.
The authors of the article note that Nord Stream 2 is not merely a project to supply the European market with gas – it is also designed to spread Russia’s influence. The more dependent the EU is on Russian gas, the greater the risk to the EU itself and to all western countries on the whole, they believe.
“The Nord Stream 2 pipeline will heighten Europe's susceptibility to Russia's energy blackmail tactics. Europe must retain control of its energy security. Make no mistake: Nord Stream 2 will bring more than just Russian gas. Russian leverage and influence will also flow under the Baltic Sea and into Europe,” the US Ambassadors warn.
The diplomats stress that European Parliament and the European Commission, as well as most EU member-states, are willing to support the amendments to the Gas Directive, but that support from Germany and France is critical to getting the revisions enacted.
On Friday 8 February, the Committee of Permanent Representatives (COREPER) in Brussels was set to discuss the possibility of granting the chairperson of the Council of Europe a mandate to negotiate with European Parliament about changes to the Gas Directive, RBC reported, citing two anonymous sources. The goal of the discussion was to unite the various EU institutions’ positions on the directive and ratify a new version of it on the ministry level.
If the amendments are made, the EU will have the right to block the construction of Nord Stream 2. The European Commission proposed the changes in 2017, and the motion was later supported by European Parliament.
According to the Süddeutsche Zeitung, France is planning to oppose Germany’s plan to exempt Nord Stream 2 from the general restrictions governing the gas sector in Europe. Berlin was initially planning to block the amendments to the Gas Directive with the support of Paris, Amsterdam, Brussels, Vienna, Athens and Nicosia, but if France decides to join the other camp, it could jeopardize the plan.
Nord Stream 2 is a project to construct two new gas pipelines from Russia to Germany along the bottom of the Baltic Sea, with a total length of more than 1,200km and a capacity of 55 billion cubic meters of gas per year. At present, the project is about 30% complete, with 500 km of pipe already laid. The first line is scheduled to be finished in November this year, and the second by December.