MEP: Simson must not act against EU interests on Russian pipeline

Urmas Paet MEP (Reform).
Urmas Paet MEP (Reform). Source: Priit Mürk/ERR

In chastising the United States for threatening sanctions on private sector firms in Germany over the ongoing construction of the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline, commissioner Kadri Simson (Center) and the European Union as a whole is acting against its own interests, leaving America to do its work for it, says MEP Urmas Paet (Reform).

Paet told ERR Thursday that the under-construction gas pipeline, which runs under the Baltic and links Russia to Germany, is a threat to security and grants too much sway in EU energy markets to a non-member.

In threatening sanctions against the German company constructing the final stages of the pipeline, the U.S. senators who did so are standing up for the EU's interests more than the EU itself has seemed to.

"By talking about restrictions, the U.S. is carrying out what the European Commission itself should be doing, to actually implement what had been decided some time ago. This idea that the U.S. is the villain of the piece with Nord Stream 2 is misunderstanding the issue," Paet said.

The commission should uphold decisions made by the EU as a whole on energy, he added, meaning the responsibility lies with Kadri Simson, Estonia's commissioner, who holds the energy portfolio, to do everything to ensure energy security.

Simson: U.S. has no right to interfere in legally compliant actions of European firms

Kadri Simson said Tuesday that the EU does not recognize restrictive measures imposed by third (i.e. non-EU) countries on European companies, if those companies are complying with EU law, seeming in effect to place the burden of "interfering" on the U.S., rather than on the Russian Federation.

Simson's remarks follow announcements last week by U.S. Senators Ted Cruz (R-TX), Tom Cotton (R-AR) and Ron Johnson (R-WI) that "crushing legal and economic sanctions" may fall on Fährhafen Sassnitz GmbH, constructing the Nord Stream 2 final section at the northeastern German port city of Sassnitz.

Germany's foreign minister Heiko Mass, who met with Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov a few days ago, is following the same line, saying he has complained to U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo about the threats.

Urmas Paet noted on Thursday that Germany's favorable stance towards Nord Stream 2, which was given the go ahead from the German government in 2018, runs against communal European attitudes, not least since the Russian Federation has displayed a tendency to interfere in the economic policies and politics of sovereign nations already, including Ukraine.

Nord Stream 1 opened in 2011 and runs from Vyborg in the Russian Federation – formerly the Finnish city of Viipuri – to Greifswald on the German Baltic coast.

"At the moment, it seems that principles of this Nord Stream project are being rebuilt, which unfortunately makes a mockery of a previous decision that no non-EU country should have too large a share in the EU energy market," Paet said.

The EU has so far not been able to reach a consensus on halting the project and in that time the Russians have made the pipeline a reality.

Reinsalu: Blocking Nord Stream 2 is in Estonia's interest

Minister of Foreign Affairs Urmas Resinalu (Isamaa) said the U.S.' plan to impose sanctions on European companies involved in the construction of Nord Stream 2 is in Estonia's interests.

"I think steps which will help block Nord Stream 2 are in Estonia's interests and the logic of the steps taken by the United States are clear to me," Reinsalu told ERR on Thursday.

However, there is no consensus on the move in the European Union.

"To say that the EU as a whole is in favor of Nord Stream 2, or that the EU as a whole says that American sanctions are bad, such an agenda has not been shaped in the EU as a whole," said Reinsalu.

He said it is important for Estonia that there should be no additional security risks from the position of the pipeline and also that Nord Stream 2 has a high impact on the environment.

"Building a huge pipeline under the sea to transport huge amounts of fossil fuel from one end to the other is not in line with the green revolution," said Reinsalu.


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Editor: Andrew Whyte, Helen Wright

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