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Nord Stream 2 going through

In the US, drastic new measures are under way against the construction of Nord Stream 2, with construction expected to be completed in record time. An internal paper shows how the German administration is its biggest promoter.

The Russian pipeline project Nord Stream 2 is highly controversial in the West. On the one hand, because it bypasses the classic transit countries for gas supplies to Western Europe – and thus removes the last decisive leverage from Ukraine against Russia. This means that Russia could turn off the gas supply for Eastern European countries such as Poland or Ukraine at any time, without fear of problems with Western European countries that are supplied via Nord Stream. Particularly in view of the political situation, Poland sees itself threatened by Russia, parts of Ukraine have been occupied or annexed by Russia and supports the fighters against the government in the east; there is a very realistic danger.

On the other hand, there has been criticism, above all by the Trump administration, that the project has made Western Europe more dependent on Russian gas and thus on the policy of the Russian government; after all, the Kremlin could turn off the tap for Western Europe at any time.

In July, Nord Stream 2 AG applied to the German Federal Maritime and Hydrographic Agency (BSH) to continue the construction of the controversial pipeline. The time to completion is running out; in the US, Senators are planning to pass the “Protecting Europe’s Energy Security Clarification Act” (PEESCA), which massively expands US sanctions against Nord Stream, together with the upcoming US defense budget. That should negatively impact the building project, so they want to finish the project as quickly as possible.

The BSH directly complied with the requests of the lawyers at Nord Stream 2 AG, a full subsidiary of the Russian company Gazprom, which is majority-controlled by the Kremlin. A modification permit was first issued in October, but that was not enough for the lawyers; such formal approval would have left the door open for objections by third parties, such as environmental groups.

The Nord Stream lawyers therefore required an informal consent, which, for example, does not allow this. And as the documents show, the BSH reacted promptly and one day later; instead of the formal change approval, issued after a three-month review, as requested by Nord Stream, granted approval and thus the green light. The German part of Nord Stream 2 has now been completed.

For many major projects in Germany, a lengthy procedure is standard and environmental concerns have been fought over for years – yet here they suddenly go extra-fast?  The result is also already certain for another application for January 2021, for which no official decision has yet been made and against which the environmental associations have raised an objection: BILD quotes an email from the BSH to the German Federal Ministry of Transport and digital infrastructure with the words: “The comments received from nature conservation associations are comprehensively evaluated. Approval for this change request is planned for December.” The decision seems to have been made here as well.

Germany needs Nord Stream for gas-fired power plants, which are supposed to absorb the capacity losses of shutdown coal and nuclear power plants. People like to criticize other countries for getting involved with Putin, protest about the Navalny case, and implement sanctions. The bluntness and harshness with which this project is pushed through against all opposition is remarkable for German politics – but apparently the means justifies the ends when it comes to the energy transition…

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