The Americans did not decide to sanction the Nord Stream 2 project. This means that the European Union will remain the field for combating this project, and the fight will not necessarily result in the project being blocked. However, Poles can use the commitment of the USA and the Commission to implement their own plans – writes Wojciech Jakóbik, editor-in-chief of BiznesAlert.pl.
There will be no US sanctions against Nord Stream 2
The Americans have not decided to introduce new sanctions against Russia. They only presented a list of the Kremlin’s supporters. Transactions with people on the list may result in US sanctions.
The US Treasury Department has published a list of almost a hundred members of the Kremlin elite. Among them were the most important politicians and businessmen associated with President Vladimir Putin, including Igor Sechin, Rosneft CEO.
The US administration’s institution stresses that being on the list does not mean being covered with sanctions that were imposed by the USA and the European Union in July 2014 following the illegal annexation of Crimea and aggression in the east of Ukraine by Russia. Nevertheless, Rosneft and its CEO were already covered by them.
Despite the publication of the list, the US Department of State decided not to introduce new sanctions from the list of options proposed by the Senate. Among them there was a provision on restrictions on energy projects implemented with the participation of Russia, such as the controversial Nord Stream 2, criticised by Americans and countries of Central and Eastern Europe, such as Poland.
The administration of President Donald Trump informed Congress that the sanctions currently in force are already having the expected effect. – Since their implementation, foreign governments have abandoned planned or announced purchases in Russia’s armaments sector, worth billions of dollars – said Heather Nauert, the spokesperson for the State Department, quoted by the Financial Times. On the other hand, the list of the treasury department is intended to persuade foreign governments to believe that transactions with the people mentioned on it can result in sanctions.
Lex Nord Stream 2 game
The dispute over Nord Stream 2 divided Europe politically. In the future, the project can divide it in economic terms: into a part enjoying free gas market and the one which is still under the influence of the main supplier, namely Russian Gazprom, which, thanks to the new gas pipeline from Russia to Germany with a capacity of 55 billion cubic metres per year, will be able to establish itself in Central and Eastern Europe.
From this point of view, the key issue is the revision of the Gas Directive, the so-called Lex Nord Stream 2, which we have written many times about. The European Commission wants to negotiate with Russia the conditions for including this project in the European law, for which it needs a mandate from the European Council. Germans are trying to delay the work and they hope that the gas pipeline will be built before the new law is passed.
– I admire German colleagues for the way they fight for their own country’s interests, without looking at any European values or the principle of solidarity – commented MP Zdzisław Krasnodębski at the Radio Information Agency. But he, like Jerzy Buzek, the head of the committee responsible for energy issues, admits that the deadlines were postponed so that no one would later question the work. – What is important is the goal – said Jerzy Buzek in an interview with Polskie Radio. – Ensuring that the situation in the European Parliament is as little tense as possible, for us to get a large majority in favour of this report, is very important – added the former Prime Minister.
According to the provisions of European law, after the final investment decision (FID) on Nord Stream 2 has been taken, the new law will not apply as it concerns new infrastructure, i. e. one that does not yet have an FID. So a great race is going on against time.
The last vote of the European Parliament’s Committee on Industry, Research and Energy (ITRE) will take place in February. The report will be presented by Prof. Buzek. He will be supported by shadow reporters, including Prof. Krasnodębski. Once the report has been adopted, a trialogue, i. e. negotiations between the EU institutions on the Lex Nord Stream 2, will be possible to start.
Poland has its own responsibilities
Poles will want to remove the Nord Stream 2 exemptions or reduce the duration thereof, in the case of which they will probably be able to count on the support of the European Commission and the resistance of Germany. They will also want to ensure that the new regulation applies to all territorial waters and exclusive economic zones.
Meanwhile, they provided EUR 33 million of support for the preparation of the Baltic Pipe gas pipeline project from the EU Connecting Europe Facility. – Obtaining further funding for the Baltic Pipe gas pipeline is important in the context of the ongoing project work. Our goal is to smoothly obtain all administrative permits for this project, which is extremely important for Poland – stresses Michał Kurtyka, Deputy Minister of Energy. The funding means that the Baltic Pipe project has remained on the list of priorities of the European Union (PCI). As part of an earlier call for proposals in 2015, the project has already received support of EUR 400,000 for implementing a feasibility study. The PCI list, on which Nord Stream 2 was missing, shows that from the point of view of the European Commission, the Baltic Pipe project is desirable. This is an achievement of Poles, who so far had to convince the public and partners that the third approach to the gas pipeline from Norway is already certain.
However, it does not mean hindrance to Nord Stream 2, which will be able to cope without CEF funding. Gazprom will receive a cash injection for the rise in petroleum prices, as will the Russian budget planned in 2018 for an average petroleum price of USD 40. Meanwhile on the stock exchange it costs around 70 dollars. The real game for Nord Stream 2 is still played on the European arena. It is worth doing everything to ensure that Poland’s voice in Brussels is as strong as possible.