Professor Jerzy Buzek, former prime minister and current member of the ITRE Committee at the European Parliament explains the impact of the amended Gas Directive, which does not target any specific project, but protects against gas market abuse. “The fact that these regulations hurt Nord Stream so badly says a lot, but it doesn’t say the rules are wrong,” BiznesAlert.pl’s interviewer says.
BiznesAlert.pl: The General Court of the European Union ruled the actions brought by Nord Stream 2 against the Gas Directive were inadmissible. How will this decision impact the Nord Stream 2 project?
Jerzy Buzek: This is definitely a disaster for the project’s image. It’s also the second piece of bad news in a row in less than a week – only five days earlier the German regulator had decided there were no reasons to award NS2 a derogation from the Gas Directive. The entire narrative, the strong lobbing and a wide disinformation campaign about the Directive all focused on accusing EU institutions of bending the rules, discrimination and working to the detriment of one investment. There were also suggestions we would lose in court – a year ago the CEO of the company that is building Nord Stream 2, in a letter to the European Commission threatened to sue if the company was not exempt from the new Directive. Strikingly enough it had happened even before the law was officially approved by the member states. And after all of this, the trial doesn’t even start because the General Court unequivocally stated from the beginning that there was no basis for starting any kind of proceedings. It is difficult not to agree with what you have tweeted after the Court’s decision: this is Gazprom’s defeat. As a rapporteur and main negotiator of the European Parliament on the Gas Directive I am very satisfied – I have never doubted that we worked hand in hand with the letter and the spirit of the law.
The General Court ruled the Gas Directive did not target Nord Stream 2. Still, the pipeline will be the first project not completed before 23 May 2019, to which the law will be applied. How can this impact NS2?
Since we have started working on the Directive I have repeatedly said that it had never been and never would be used to target a specific gas pipeline or provider. Its only target are monopolistic practices and unfair competition that make EU companies and individual consumers suffer financially, and that threaten EU energy security. The fact that these regulations hurt Nord Stream so badly says a lot, but it doesn’t say the rules are wrong. The EU General Court’s decision only confirms that.
When it comes to the past of Nord Stream 2, I still believe that from the point of view of the EU unity and energy security, our Energy Union and solidarity, including solidarity with Ukraine, it would be best if this investment never happened. But of course as long as it will be made in line with the EU law, we cannot ban it.
How efficient will be European Commission’s supervision over the implementation of the Gas Directive in Germany with regard to Nord Stream 2?
We should pay very close attention to it – and we will continue to do so at the European Parliament. However, we should also honestly admit that both the European Commission, which should not come as a surprise, and Germany, which is indeed very interested in this investment, are doing very well at implementing the Directive, so far without any issues. There have been small controversies when the law was implemented in Germany, but in the end it was done in an exemplary way and, this needs to be said – with more attention to deadlines than in, for instance, Poland. Additionally, as I have already said, the German regulator did not award derogation to Nord Stream 2 from the Directive, even though some predicted it would.
Will the dispute on Nord Stream 2 now move to European courts?
I hope not, but, in some way, it would also prove the success of the updated Gas Directive. This is because without it the project would be constructed in a legal void and its managers would not have to worry about European courts at all. This is one of the reasons why I was so surprised when my colleagues from the Law and Justice party did not support the Directive during a decisive vote at the European Parliament. Fortunately they were quite alone in this approach.
How important is the US engagement in the resistance against Nord Stream 2 after, as it seems, all European tools have been used?
The engagement of Americans and the threat of sanctions definitely do not make it easier for the investment to continue. However, it is apparent that Russia is very determined. I am hoping the transatlantic cooperation will go back to the way it was during the past decades, when it was always fruitful. Our unified opposition to NS2 may be a good starting point to this end.
Interview by Wojciech Jakóbik