Just last Thursday, the Poles celebrated the inauguration of the Romanian Presidency of the Council of the European Union, and now Romania is accelerating work on the revision of the Gas Directive. This is a chance to delay or block Nord Stream 2 – writes Wojciech Jakóbik, editor-in-chief of BiznesAlert.pl.
Acceleration of the directive
The Romanian Presidency, which began its work with the New Year, forwarded the draft gas directive to the work of experts of the Council of the European Union, which will deal with it on January 15.
The revision of the Gas Directive may result in the submission of the disputed Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline project to European law, and, consequently, delay or block its construction. The critics of the new gas pipeline from Russia to Germany, like Poland, count on it. So far, the project has been waiting in the drawer of the Austrian Presidency. It should be recalled that the Austrian OMV is the financial partner of Nord Stream 2 AG, which is one hundred percent owned by Gazprom from Russia.
Romanian trace in the directive
The Romanians revised the revision proposal as suggested by the discussions with the experts and ambassadors of the European Union. The changes relate to the negotiation of agreements regarding matters subordinated to the Directive. This means that Romania has enriched the project with provisions specifying how to negotiate a possible agreement on the implementation of EU law regarding the contested Nord Stream 2.
Article 49a introduced by Romanians would require Member States to ask the European Commission for permission to start negotiations with a third state to amend existing agreements on mergers with such a country in matters covered by the regulations of the directive. This means that possible talks between Germany and Russia about Nord Stream 2 would have to be authorized by the Commission.
Brussels could refuse the authorization if the negotiations or the proposed agreement were in conflict with EU law, would harm the operation of the internal gas market, competition or security of supply, or undermine the objectives of ongoing intergovernmental negotiations with the European Union and a third state. This means that possible negotiations of the European Commission with the Russian Federation on the implementation of EU law with respect to Nord Stream 2 would define the field of action for bilateral negotiations, and Germany would not be able to accept findings contrary to the interests of the European Union.
The draft updated by the current Presidency assumes that the Commission would have to take a decision within 90 days after receiving a request from a Member State. In case of consent, it would provide it with guidelines for negotiations, including the recommendation of clauses that would make the arrangement compatible with EU law. The Member State would have to keep the Commission updated throughout the negotiations.
The Romanians have also changed the definition of the interconnector, so that it means a connection between Member States to connect the transmission systems of these countries or link the Member State with a third state to the border of the territory of the European Union. This means that the law would cover the Nord Stream 2 section to the border of that territory, and not, for example, only on land. In addition, according to the proposal, transmission system operators could conclude agreements with operators from third states to use gas connections only in accordance with EU law. This would make Gazprom’s activities more difficult, which raises concerns about the abuse of European infrastructure, because it maximizes the use of Nord Stream branches.
Make it until spring
The text will be discussed on January 15. After an agreement in the Council of the European Union, it could reach the trilogue with the participation of the European Parliament. Time for action is limited by the April EP elections. To make this possible, an agreement should be reached around February. Then Parliament would have time to approve the project before the final session scheduled for April 18, 2019. The next Parliament would deal with the topic at the earliest in the second half of 2019. This is the key compartment from the point of view of the Nord Stream 2 project, which is expected to be completed by the end of this year, and the revised directive should cover only new investments.
Poles have had important hopes with the Romanian Presidency, which shares the concerns of Poland and other critics with regard to the Nord Stream 2 project. Revision of the gas directive that would lead to negotiations on how to implement EU law regarding the gas pipeline could delay the project if agreement and need to adapt it to EU regulations, or even blockages, if the fruit of negotiations between the EC and the Russian Federation are rejected.
Romanians’ proposals also bind the Germans who would like to talk to the Russians about Nord Stream 2 bilaterally. It is not known, however, whether the Romanian relief came quickly enough. There is less and less time for the European elections. The fight for whether Nord Stream 2 will operate in accordance with European Union law will last until the end.
Polish footprint in Romania
Just on January 10, the inauguration of the Romanian Presidency was held at the embassy of this country in Warsaw, where Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Konrad Szymański was present.
The Foreign Ministry said that on January 9, Poland’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Jacek Czaputowicz hosted Romania. – My visit to Bucharest shows our will to develop very good bilateral relations and close cooperation with Romania within the EU and NATO – said the head of Polish diplomacy after meeting with Romanian Minister of Foreign Affairs Teodor Viorel Meleşcanu. Minister Czaputowicz was the first foreign guest of the head of the Romanian Ministry of Foreign Affairs in the year of the Presidency of Romania in the EU Council.
Ministers discussed current topics from the European Union agenda, including issues related to energy policy, future Multiannual Financial Framework, cohesion policy and migration policy. – We note the convergence of views on many issues with satisfaction – noted the head of Polish diplomacy quoted by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. – Congratulations on taking over the presidency and we wish Romanian friends effective work and implementation of the most important goals – said Minister Czaputowicz. He also remarked that the talks showed the will of both sides to strengthen Polish-Romanian cooperation within the European Union and to seek common solutions regarding the future of the EU.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs mentions that during the discussion ministers Jacek Czaputowicz and Teodor Meleşcanu pointed to the urgent need to revise the Gas Directive. The head of the Polish Foreign Ministry expressed his conviction that it is crucial for the finalization of the Energy Union project. In this context he referred to the subject of the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline, stressing that this project has a negative impact on the EU gas market and is destroying EU solidarity.
Will Poles and Romanians have anything to celebrate in April, after the last session of the current European Parliament?