GAS Nord Stream 2 28 November, 2019 10:00 am   
COMMENTS: Jerzy Buzek

Buzek: Poland doesn’t need to fear Nord Stream 2 anymore. Ukraine still has this problem (INTERVIEW)

Former Prime Minister and President of the European Parliament, MEP Jerzy Buzek, talks about the dispute over the Nord Stream 2 project. – If Ukraine were in the European Union, it would not be possible to launch Nord Stream 2 at its expense. Poland is in a different situation today – indicates our interlocutor. How do you assess the implementation of the gas directive in Germany?

Jerzy Buzek: It is good that public opinion in Poland and other member states, even in Germany, reacts to the fact of its implementation. It has a great importance for Nord Stream 2, but also for all other pipelines. Let’s remind that the gas pipeline would have to be finished and put into commercial use by May 23, 2019 in order to count on the possibility of any deviations from the provisions of the Directive. Who did not have a pipeline ready for commercial operation until that day – will not turn back time until we are able to teleport with gas pipelines into the past.

The threat of incorrect transposition of the gas directive in Germany has been suggested by the Germans themselves, their media and politicians.

I have spoken to Germans who are in favor of the Polish position on Nord Stream 2. The Greens are especially friendly. At first they were worried, but after analysis it turned out that the implementation method does not look dangerous. In the explanatory memorandum to the Act, which, however, has no legal force, there is a provision that each pipeline should be considered as a separate case. It doesn’t change anything, but maybe it was a nod to socialists to support implementation. The bill itself is exactly as it should be. Nord Stream 2 would have to start working before May 23, 2019, which did not happen! It is therefore not possible for them to obtain any consideration here.

What’s next?

The German regulator should operate in accordance with the directive. There is no right to depart from EU law in relation to Nord Stream 2, and especially – on the stretch in territorial waters of Germany. Even if someone tried to prove that this part is already physically completed, it is not put into commercial use. Therefore, we are grateful to everyone who has started a discussion on this topic – vigilance is advisable, even if it does not seem to be a major problem now.

Is the topic closed?

The gas pipeline must be subject to ownership unbundling and EU regulations from the Third Energy Package. This law is complicated to apply – its implementation in Poland was a real challenge a decade ago. It requires an independent operator, transparency of transmission contracts and tariffs, and third side access to the transmission infrastructure. It applies to all pipelines to the European Union, including gas pipelines from Libya to Italy, from Morocco to France or from Norway to Poland.

Gazprom has a monopoly on gas exports from Russia. Will the European Commission have to talk to the Russians about implementing ownership unbundling?

Pipelines must comply with the EU law throughout the EU, including in the territorial waters of the Member States. If there are any doubts about the actions of the German regulator, the European Commission will certainly take over the case. The European Parliament has tightened the provisions of the gas directive in this respect, which I sought as the author of this directive. We have limited the time for negotiations for the regulator and we have made the results of these negotiations valid only if approved by the European Commission. The Commission may also take over these negotiations from a member state.

In a word, the matter of implementing this right is ultimately in the hands of the European Commission, and finally – of the Court of Justice of the EU, like other EU laws, for example regarding the independence of the judiciary, which has recently been talked about with us.

How did the EU action on Nord Stream 2 support Ukraine?

For now, we have done everything that was possible in this matter. It is difficult to ban investments in the European Union. European law offers the possibility of open competition, but also requires consultation with other Member States for any new gas imports from outside the Union in terms of possible effects on security of supply. In the case of Nord Stream 2, it will be necessary to examine how commissioning will affect the security of individual countries and the entire EU, as well as gas prices.

The situation of the Yamal contract, under which Poland has almost the most expensive gas in Europe, although we are closest to Russia, cannot be repeated. EU law will force Gazprom to consider a new way of managing Nord Stream 2 in such a way that it does not damage the principles of security and solidarity.

How does EU law protect Ukraine?

If Ukraine were in the European Union, Nord Stream 2 could not be launched at its expense. It would be a Member State whose security of gas supply suffers from this project. Poland is in a different situation today: it may become independent of gas supplies from Russia and may even abandon the continuation of the Yamal contract. We have a gas terminal in Świnoujście and we will have Baltic Pipe. And if the Yamal supplies from the East are closed, we can import gas from the West with it.

We are in a different situation than Ukraine.

Ukrainians earn billions of dollars from transmission charges from Gazprom. The European Commission requires Russia to make sure that gas supplies through Ukraine are not interrupted. This would disturb security of supply to countries such as Slovakia or Hungary. These countries get gas from Russia through Ukraine, so European law protects it. Gas cannot be freely sent through Nord Stream 2 without taking into account the situation of Slovaks or Hungarians. I myself was the rapporteur of the regulation on security of gas supply with key transport corridors, among which is the gas pipeline through Ukraine.

Is the stability of supply for Ukraine today greater than in the past?

The European Commission has been involved in gas talks since 2015. This involvement helped protect Ukraine from the gas crisis known from the previous decade. Ukraine wants to maintain the transit of Russian gas through its territory despite the creation of Nord Stream 2. We are trying to help Kiev in this. We will not leave it to Ukraine and bilateral talks.

Interview by Wojciech Jakóbik