BERLIN, April 29. /TASS/. The EU cannot stop the Nord Stream 2, but it needs to make sure that the updated EU Gas Directive is applied to the gas pipeline project, European Commissioner for Budget and Human Resources Guenther Oettinger said on Sunday in an interview with Funke Mediengruppe.
"The Nord Stream 2 construction is in full swing. Stopping the pipeline project is out of question," he said. "However, Putting Nord Stream 2 into operation will be possible only if it fully complies with the new, extended rules of the [EU] domestic market."
He reiterated some of the updated Directive’s provisions, including equal access to the pipelines for all entities producing or trading in natural gas, the distinction between gas producers and pipeline operations and transparent pricing.
"I expect interesting discussions to take place before the pipeline will be put into operation in 2020," he said. "Debates about the pipeline are under way in Europe, including in Germany."
Oettinger also expressed his support to Manfred Weber, the leader of the European People's Party who was earlier nominated to the post of the European Commission president. Weber earlier said in an interview to Polska Times that if elected to the post, he would "resort to all possible legal norms and laws to block Nord Stream 2." He also claimed that the project "contradicts European interests because it would increase Europe’s dependence from Russian fuel."
Under the amendments to the EU gas directive, the rules governing the European gas market apply to pipelines from third countries. In particular, one company is not allowed to act as a gas producer and gas transporter at the same time. Also, the access to Nord Stream 2 pipeline should be granted to other companies.
However, one of the articles of the directive provides for derogation with respect to offshore gas pipelines, which are "completed" before the new provisions come into force in the summer of 2019. The derogation allows EU member states not to apply the key provisions of the gas directive (separation of activities and third party access to the pipeline) to such gas pipelines.
According to the European Commission, the need to "take into account the legitimate expectations of existing operators, as well as the fact that the EU did not previously have specific rules applicable to gas pipelines from third countries can be regarded as the ground for derogation," a representative of Nord Stream 2 AG told TASS earlier this week.
According to the official, when the European Commission submitted amendments for consideration, it clearly stated that Nord Stream 2 was the only project at an "advanced" stage, and investments in it had been made before the adoption of amendments to the EU Gas Directive.
If the Nord Stream 2 is not subject to the same legal regime as other similar gas pipelines, it would be a violation of international law and EU legislation, the official said.
The Nord Stream 2 project will consist of two lines with the combined capacity of 55 billion cubic meters of gas per year, running from the coast of Russia through the Baltic Sea to Germany. The cost of construction is estimated at 9.5 billion euro. The launch of the pipeline is expected in the end of 2019.
The US strongly opposes the new gas pipeline from Russia to Europe. Washington has repeatedly threatened to impose sanctions on the project and its European participants. According to the Russian authorities, this may be due to an attempt to increase the supply to Europe of American liquefied natural gas, which is significantly more expensive than the Russian pipeline.