German senior ruling party defends pro-NS2 policy

“The issue of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline to bring Russian gas to Germany should not be mixed up with political and human rights disputes with Moscow,” a senior official from the Social Democratic Party (SPD) that leads Germany's coalition government told the Reuters agency.

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The pipeline was completed in September, but is still awaiting approval from German and European Union regulators. In the opinion of some politicians from Germany and abroad, the project should be blocked due to several policy disagreements with Russia.

“Nord Stream 2 is, so to say, nearly connected to the grid, with only the lack of legal permits hindering the final start of operations,” Kevin Kühnert, the SPD’s general secretary, said in an interview, adding that “at some stage, there must be political and legal peace in such a discussion.”

The politician pointed out that the project, led by Russia’s Gazprom, should not be mixed up with responses to Russia’s territorial controversies with Ukraine and human rights issues.

The SPD’s support for the pipeline under the Baltic Sea, a geopolitical irritant to the US and countries including Ukraine and Poland, contrasts with the position of its junior coalition partner the Greens, but mirrors the stance of former Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democrats’ (CDU).

Nord Stream 2 is a two-pipe gas pipeline that can transport approximately 55 billion cubic metres of gas annually from Russia along the bottom of the Baltic Sea. The investment was dictated by political considerations to bypass Ukraine’s gas transmission system. For this reason, it is highly controversial as it could become a tool of economic pressure against Central-Eastern Europe.

The construction of the pipeline was strongly opposed by Poland and the Baltic States. Critics of the pipeline have been indicating that the project would increase Europe’s dependence on Russian gas and extend the Kremlin’s influence over European politics.

In November 2021, Poland’s gas infrastructure operator Gaz-System completed the construction of the sea-bed section of the Norway-Poland strategic gas pipeline - the Baltic Pipe - that Warsaw hopes will help the country become independent from Russian gas.

According to Piotr Naimski, the Polish government’s commissioner for strategic energy infrastructure, the 10 bcm of gas that the new pipeline will be able to deliver to Poland every year is a comparable amount to what the country gets from Gazprom under the current long-term contract, which expires in December 2022.