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The shadow man of the Nord Stream - 2

Author : Der Spiegel

Der Spiegel on the new image of CDU politician Friedbert Pfluger, Nord Stream - 2 lobbyist
20:24, 2 August 2018

Read the original text at Der Spiegel.

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In October 2010, a new life of the CDU politician Friedbert Pfluger began. After 20 years of political activity, the unsuccessful attempt to become the mayor of Berlin and the tedious struggle in Berlin's federal land of his party, where he was dismissed in two years as chairman of the faction by a two-thirds vote, Pfluger was sick of this matter and he said he wanted to devote himself completely science. Since then, the public has heard almost nothing about the former CDU politician.

Pfluger's strategy has radically changed: from a former first-row politician, he has become a public relations specialist in the field of energy policy, working in the shadow. New Pfluger has many guises. According to the investigations of Der Spiegel and Lobbycontrol, the ex-politician supports such enterprises as Nord Stream-2, both as a private economic adviser and as a scientist. Of course, Pfluger is not so well known as the former chancellor Gerhard Schroeder (SPD), who is working for Russian enterprises, nevertheless, in the backstage, the former CDU functionary turned into one of Europe's most significant gas lobbyists.

The second career of Pfluger began eight years ago. On October 1, he took up the post of director of the newly created "European Center for Energy and Resource Security / (EUCERS) under the auspices of the famous King's College in London, which is considered one of the most respectable institutions of higher education in Europe. The key theme of the institute was energy and resource security.

The topic is important, but the new post would hardly have given Pfluger the opportunity to constantly run between Berlin and London. Because, according to the college information, payment was not provided for this post.

Related: Nord Stream 2 pipe laying kicks off in Germany

But Pfluger has well prepared his second career. A year before he left politics, he founded the firm Pflüger International in Berlin. By that time, Pfluger had already worked for the consulting firm Roland Berger, and in parallel with the activities of the deputy. He denied the existence of a conflict of interests in the media.

In the following years, he acted, on the one hand, as an entrepreneur from the Berlin district of Charlottenburg, advising politicians and concerns, and on the other hand, as a scientist from London, leading research projects and organizing conferences of specialists. Journalistic investigations showed that he did not always manage to clearly distinguish between science and business.

One of the most famous clients of the consulting firm of Pfluger is Gazprom's subsidiary Nord Stream - 2, an enterprise that is currently promoting the construction of a second gas pipeline from Russia along the bottom of the Baltic Sea to Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania. This project provokes fierce controversy in the political circles.

Related: Nord Stream 2 will not influence Ukraine, - Putin

In 2016, Pflueger’s London Institute (at King's College London) published two studies on the realism and geopolitical significance of this gas pipeline. The results of the study were unambiguously in favor of the project. There it was alleged that the new gas pipeline would strengthen Europe's energy security and its competitiveness and that consumers in the EU would benefit from it. One of the researches was sponsored by the investors of the gas pipeline - Shell, Engie, Wintershall, Uniper und OMV. At the same time, Ilya Kochevrin, the director of the Gazprom subsidiary Gazprom Export, became a member of the supervisory board of the EUCERS Institute. 

Pfluger has confirmed that Nord Stream - 2 was his partner in his Berlin business. He did not deny that his firm Pflüger International was fulfilling the orders of Nord Stream-2. She has performed the analysis and a consistent assessment of the European gas markets for the Gazprom subsidiary. There is no information on the volume of orders and their payment.

EUCERS London Institute assures that there are no intersections between the sponsors of the institute, where research is being written about the Nord Stream - 2, and the customers of the Berlin-based Pfluger’s company. This is a very formal argument, although the sponsors of research from the Shell environment, Engie, and OMV formally do not have shares in Nord Stream-2, they are listed on the project's website as its investors and are on the list immediately after the owner of the Gazprom project.

Related: The US may introduce sanctions against German companies for Nord Stream-2

For an additional inquiry from journalists, the institute said that EUCERS did not know who was the client of Pflüger International.

Pfluger himself reports that EUCERS and its firm Pflüger International are "strictly separated." But the facts show the opposite. The Düsseldorf energy concern Uniper, one of the financiers of the Nord Stream - 2, confirmed to the request of the Lobbycontrol organization that it not only supported the scientific research of the Pfluger Institute with finances but also placed paid orders in its Berlin firm.

Pfluger also skillfully uses his connections, which have been preserved since his political career, when he was a deputy of the Bundestag and a foreign policy speaker of the CDU/CSU faction. Since 2009, he has been organizing the "Energy Talks in the Reichstag," to which well-known politicians and businessmen are invited. Sometimes the "Union of Central European Energy Enterprises" also participates in organizing these conversations, one of the clients of the consulting firm Pfluger and at the same time the sponsor of its London Institute.

Related: Purpose of Nord Stream-2 is to strike at EU and NATO members, - Poroshenko

The fact that Pfluger, being the director of the "scientific" institute, enjoys as a decoration the brand of the famous Royal College and at the same time is engaged in gas lobbying in Berlin and Brussels, confirms his membership in the supervisory board of the lobbying organization "The Future of Natural Gas" (Zukunft Erdgas), engaged in the promotion of gas projects throughout Europe. Simultaneously, being a director of the EUCERS, he gives an interview about the scientific analysis of Nord Stream - 2. On the sidelines of an economic forum, for example, he talked about this with the German service of the state channel Russia Today.

Pfluger is trying to get in touch with the "right" authorities to agitate for "Nord Stream-2" in Brussels - as a consultant, as a scientist. According to the investigations of the Lobbycontrol organization, in 2016, Pfluger has vainly tried twice to invite EU Commissioner for Energy Maros Shefovich to visit the events related to Nord Stream - 2, first as a representative of Pflüger International, and then as director of the EUCERS Institute.

Related: Nord Stream 2 to destabilize Europe, give Russia more influence, - Morawiecki

"Pfluger does not publicly show his role as a lobbyist," Ulrich Muller from Lobbycontrol criticizes him. According to Mueller, Pfluger speaks "as a scientist without revealing that he is also engaged in lobbying and consulting in this area."

In early 2018, Pflüger International was officially registered with the Brussels lobbyists register; nine years after the founding of the limited liability company and numerous organized discussions with EU representatives. Entry to the EU registry for lobbyists is voluntary. But now EU commissioners and members of their offices have the right to meet only with registered lobby groups, although this rule is not always respected.

Pfluger’s Berlin consulting firm claims that in 2018 it has spent 4,000 euros on lobbying in EU organizations. It is difficult to verify these data. The firm does not specify its customers in the register. The London Institute of Pfluger EUCERS is still not registered in Brussels at all, although Pfluger has been operating in Brussels under this brand. According to the rules, scientific institutes and think-tanks should be included in the register of lobbyists.

Related: Nord Stream 2 construction: Denmark intentionally drags time, Russia says

Germany does not have a register of lobbyists. Defenders of consumer rights and organizations like Lobbycontrol have been criticizing it for a long time. Therefore, lobbyists in Germany can easily act as supposedly neutral experts and hide their true goals. Muller says: "The lack of transparency rules leads to the fact that in such notable projects as Nord Stream - 2, only individuals like Gerhard Schröder, and not the entire lobbying network that includes former politicians of different parties, are in the spotlight."

It is a secret, how much money Pfluger earns with his dual role. There are no opened financial reports of his Berlin firm or of the London Institute. Journalistic inquiries about the income of the EUCERS Institute received from research in the field of energy the Royal College in London refused to provide data.

Susanne Götze

Related: Nord Stream 2 is private initiative, - Steinmeier

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