Nord Stream 2 enjoys a favorable image in France as well as in Germany for the development of European energy. This is especially true since the discussions between the two French and German leaders on Friday, February 5. Emmanuel Macron finally supported Germany in its approach. However, a few days earlier, France asked Germany to review its participation in the Russian gas pipeline project. Part of Europe and the United States do not want it, accused of threatening Europe’s energy security.
Nord Stream 2 in France supported against American advice
The Nord Stream 2 in France has not always had the reputation that the President of the French Republic Emmanuel Macron had for it this Friday. But at this Franco-German summit on security and defense, the President supported the Chancellor’s position.
He believes that Russia is a reliable supplier of oil and gas. In addition, while the project benefits Germany, the French energy company Engie is also one of the project’s sponsors. However, if the President of the Republic finally supports the German position, he also believes that it is necessary to continue to hold a firm and demanding dialogue with Russia.
Increased need for gas in Germany favors Nord Stream 2 project
According to Chancellor Merkel, the Navalny case has not affected the German position on Nord Stream 2. Nevertheless, she affirmed that the economic project also has a political scope, since the field is highly strategic. It raises the question of Germany’s energy sovereignty and Europe’s independence from Russia.
With Germany on the verge of phasing out nuclear power (2022) and coal (2038), the Nord Stream 2 project becomes vitally important for energy security. Indeed, these outflows reinforce the country’s dependence on gas. In this context, gas becomes a strategic resource in the framework of the energy transition.
This transition remains a priority for Europe, as was reaffirmed at this Franco-German conference.
Opposition to the project and US sanctions
The construction of Nord Stream 2, originally planned for 2020, has been interrupted for a long time. Indeed, the application of American sanctions stopped the project dead in its tracks. President Trump had thus imposed sanctions on the Russian ship in charge of the work.
In January, these sets of sanctions were expanded. At the same time, the ship Fortuna began laying the pipelines in Danish waters.
These sanctions are aimed at any entity that provides port facilities, equipment improvements, insurance or other services to the vessel. The Norwegian company DNV GL as well as other providers have therefore withdrawn from the project as long as the US sanctions are in place.
Moreover, if President Trump was opposed to the project, this is also the case of his successor in the White House Joe Biden who took office on January 20, 2021.
The ambivalent position of the European Union
The Nord Stream 2 project is viewed negatively by both the United States and other European countries. Indeed, countries like Poland believe that this project would make Europeans dependent on Russian gas. According to them, Moscow could then exert political pressure by using this lever.
European countries, but also the European Parliament, believe that Russian energy supplies create security vulnerabilities. The question of Germany’s coherence vis-à-vis NATO is also raised. While Germany is a member of NATO, which works to limit Russian influence, it makes lucrative deals with it, and transfers currency to it.
What energy sovereignty for the European Union?
Beyond the security aspect, the actors opposed to the project question the issue of energy sovereignty. Indeed, every euro spent on the Nord Stream 2 project is not spent on other intra-European projects. In this sense, the Slovak Prime Minister, Igor Matovic, pleads for greater European cohesion in such a strategic area.
The different positions taken on the Navalny case seem to illustrate this lack of coherence of the European Union. In this sense, while the French president and the German chancellor denounce these events, both are at the same time in favor of the gas pipeline project. However, the stopping of this project could finally be an opportunity to put considerable pressure on Russia.
Resumption of work in the Danish Sea on February 7
On the other hand, the resumption of work in the Baltic Sea displeases many countries, including the United States. The project questions Europe’s capacity for independence and energy sovereignty. Despite this, on February 7, work on the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline finally resumed. The ship Fortuna has begun laying pipelines in the Danish exclusive economic zone.
For the time being, some 75 kilometers of pipes (out of the 1200 kilometers of the project) still have to be laid on German and Danish territory. Nevertheless, the NGO Deutsche Umwelthilfe has filed an administrative appeal against the German federal permit to build the pipeline. Therefore, its construction in the German jurisdiction is frozen for the time being.