The Times view on Russian gas lines: Putin's Pipe Dreams

Angela Merkel and Emmanuel Macron signing a German French friendship treaty in Aachen

For France, which relies more on nuclear energy than natural gas, the Nord Stream 2 project is not as critical as it is for Germany. France's stance deprives Germany, which is seeking to veto the initiative, of needed support.

The EU executive wants a say over how Nord Stream 2 is used before its construction, which involves European companies, is completed. The United States is keen to increase sales of LNG to Germany and the European Union, which is likely one major reason President Donald Trump has been so vocal in his opposition to the Nord Stream 2 project.

The agreement, which only Bulgaria voted against, sets the scene for negotiations within the European Union for extending the bloc's rules regulating gas deliveries to incoming pipelines, like the Russian-German Nord Stream 2.

France's Foreign Ministry has signaled its intention to vote for changes to the EU's Third Energy Package Gas Directive regulating gas imports when the topic comes up for discussion Friday in Brussels.

Critics are also anxious that the pipeline could deliver a major blow to Ukraine's economy since along with its TurkStream project - another pipeline that runs from Russia to Turkey - Russia would be able to completely bypass Ukraine pipelines, leaving Kyev without gas transit fees.

In the United States, a bipartisan group of senators drafted a resolution calling for the cancellation of the pipeline project, and leaders of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee said they would take up the resolution at their next business meeting.

But Germany feared that would make the new pipeline uneconomic and nonviable.

Besides France, opposition has been expressed by Poland and the Baltic countries, who've raised concerns over the alleged danger of Europe becoming dependent on Russian Federation and the subsequent diminished transit role of Ukraine.

Merkel has so far insisted that the pipeline is a "purely economic project" that will ensure cheaper, more reliable gas supplies.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, cited by Reuters, simultaneously announced that European states have reached an agreement on the issue of Nord Stream 2.

On the other side, Poland, Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia strongly oppose Nord Stream 2, mostly for geopolitical reasons. "I say "No", if we diversify at the same time", she said while on a visit to Slovakia. The German outlet Sueddeutsche Zeitung reported, citing French government circles, that Paris fears more dependency on Russian Federation and "strategic problems" in the strained relationship between Brussels and Moscow. "The Nord Stream 2 pipeline will heighten Europe's susceptibility to Russia's energy blackmail tactics".

Although Chancellor Merkel has always been a proponent of the pipeline, not everyone in Germany shares her enthusiasm.

France's decision aligns it more closely with critics of the project, which say it bolsters Europe's reliance on Russian energy and bypasses key partners such as Ukraine. Under the compromise agreement, Germany will itself be able to determine the rules under which Nord Stream 2 will operate.

German businesses are very involved in the pipeline, having invested heavily in the project, which is run by former Chancellor Gerhard Schröder.



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