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Mihkelson: New US sanctions change perspective of Nord Stream 2

Foreign Affairs Committee chairman Marko Mihkelson.
Foreign Affairs Committee chairman Marko Mihkelson. Source: (Postimees/Scanpix)

In the light of potential new American sanctions against Russia, The European Commission is worried about repercussions for EU energy companies. Marko Mihkelson (independent), chairman of the Riigikogu’s Foreign Affairs Committee, thinks that current events should make EU politicians reconsider their stance concerning the Nord Stream 2 project.

Mihkelson told ERR’s Aktuaalne kaamera on Monday that the question was whether or not Nord Stream 2 was compatible with sanction policy against Russia. While the eastern members of the European Union have been very critical of the project, Germany has been a great supporter.

The U.S. House of Representatives will likely vote on new sanctions against Russia on Tuesday, to be put in place as a reaction to Russian meddling in last year’s presidential elections as well as Russia’s continued involvement in the Ukraine. Sanctions to be voted on also include Iran and North Korea.

In the opinion of the European Commission, the American sanctions could bring repercussions for EU businesses, especially energy companies. Leading EU politicians, German minister of foreign affairs Sigmar Gabriel among them, have expressed worry that the U.S. could use the sanctions as a pretext to replace Russian natural gas in Europe’s energy supply with American gas, and thus the sanctions have an economic background as well.

Foreign Minister Sven Mikser (SDE) didn’t want to speculate what the sanctions could be in detail, but stressed that united action was essential.

“Until now the United States have kept Europe’s legitimate interests in mind when imposing sanctions. But it’s clear that the sanctions are effective and work only if they have greater influence on the receiving end than they do on the countries imposing the sanctions and their partners,” Mikser said.

He added that he hoped the new situation wouldn’t lead to tensions between the U.S. and the EU. According to Mikser, there is still time to coordinate the sanctions, and Estonia as the current presiding member state in the EU council had an important role in this.

If an agreement couldn’t be reached, possible damaging consequences might affect Europe’s transport, mining, and finance sectors, not to mention the energy companies, including those working on realizing the Nord Stream 2 pipeline project between Germany and Russia.

Commenting on this point, chairman of the Riigikogu’s Foreign Affairs Committee, Marko Mihkelson, said that Europe’s politicians should think about whether or not the planned pipeline went along with the sanctions against Russia.

“Nord Stream 2, also as a political project, is clearly intended to reroute gas supplies away from Ukraine and towards Europe. Here the interests of the energy sector of several large European countries as well as certainly also large companies has been ever so slightly greater than in holding Russia responsible,” Mihkelson said.

He added that the U.S. liked to remind Europe from time to time that its dependence on Russia for energy comes with political risks. “The United States’ sanctions have always been a bit tougher than those of the European Union, but you can’t rule out the possibility that it might be in their interest to find a better market for its own energy exports,” Mihkelson said.

Editor: Dario Cavegn

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