The Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline, bone of contention between Europeans, Russians, and Americans, faced a new obstacle. This 1,200 km pipeline should provide for the delivery of Russian gas to Germany via the Baltic Sea, while completion is scheduled for the end of 2019.
Anyway, the small Danish island located on its way changes the situation. At the same time, the delay in sales might affect the gas supply in Europe.
Denmark has not issued a permit for the construction of the Nord Stream 2 section, which should pass near Bornholm Island (located south of Sweden), that is, through the country's territorial waters. Back in March, the Danish Energy Agency officially requested the Nord Stream consortium to consider a new route, the third since launching the approval procedure two years ago.
“We want to be sure that we approve the optimal route from the point of view of ecology and navigation in this zone," said Morten Christensen, an official representative of the agency.
The consortium, however, has a different opinion. The new requirement can be considered only as a deliberate attempt to delay the implementation of the project, according to a company press release, released on April 15, in parallel with the submission of the third request for permission.
The company condemns the betrayal of investor confidence and believes that each day of delay would cost 20 million EUR for European families and industries who would have to pay bills.
The first route was introduced on April 3, 2017, and repeated the geography of the first Nord Stream, launched in 2011. The previous project was easily approved by the Danish government, which was already headed by the liberal Lars Lykke Rasmussen.
Since then, the geopolitical situation in the region has changed, and Rasmussen, re-elected in 2014, believes that the “political side” of the gas pipeline can no longer be ignored.
The Danish authorities could only object to the environmental consequences of the project, but on December 1, 2018, deputies accepted an amendment that allows the foreign minister to veto any project on the continental shelf of Denmark if he believes that this threatens the country's interests in the diplomatic and defense sphere.
Since then, the case has been in the office of the head of Danish diplomacy that does not bother to answer, which is completely incomprehensible to the Nord Stream consortium. In February, Foreign Minister Anders Samuelsen emphasized that "nothing of what Russia is doing now can be an argument in favor of approval."
Is Denmark stalling? During an official visit to Berlin in April 2018, the prime minister stressed that the kingdom “has no legal opportunity to stop the project,” but it can “delay” it to put pressure on Moscow and provide guarantees to Ukraine.
A number of European countries, primarily Poland and the Baltic states, believe that this is the crux of the matter. They accuse Russia of trying to realize the Nord Stream 2 in order to stop the transit of gas through Ukraine and thereby deprive Kyiv of revenues of several billion EUR a year.
Similar were the arguments of the European Commission, which has put a lot of effort to hinder the progress of the project. The new gas directive adopted by the EU tightened the regulation for Nord Stream 2, although it was unable to stop the construction of the pipeline.
The project also has another influential enemy – the United States, primarily Donald Trump, who criticized Angela Merkel at the NATO summit in the fall of 2018, in particular accusing Germany of depending on Russian gas.
Officially, Washington claims that it defends the interests of Ukraine and is struggling with Russian influence. The Congress even voted for the package of sanctions associated with the pipeline.
Nevertheless, the Americans almost do not hide the fact that they have a different goal: they hope to supply shale gas to Europe and compete with Moscow in this area.
Supporters of the Nord Stream 2 explain the position of Denmark economic and diplomatic war. “The Danes are the lackeys of Americans in this matter,” says source, close to the Nord Stream 2 project.“They are fooling around and dragging things down to harm the project.”
In any case, the new delay might directly affect Europe, whose gas needs are growing more and more: the agreement between Russia and Ukraine expires on January 1, 2020. Thus, Gazprom was counting on Nord Stream 2 to ensure the supplies.
But how would Moscow ensure supplies if there is no gas pipeline, and the situation with Ukraine remains tensed? European Commission hopes that the delay of the project can force Russia and Ukraine to gather at the negotiating table.
Nabil Wakim and Anne-Françoise Hivert