The European Commission is likely to approve the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline project, Euractiv reported citing sources familiar with the matter.
“European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker is considering to move forward on Nord Stream 2 and was ‘highly likely’ to give the project the go-ahead in the coming months,” unnamed European officials said.
The decision is expected to be delivered in the next few months and could be announced after the general elections in Germany in September. Nord Stream 2 has sparked numerous controversies between Moscow and Brussels, but Berlin has firmly supported the project.
An agreement on Nord Stream-2, involving the expansion of the Nord Stream gas pipeline, was signed in early-September 2014, during the Eastern Economic Forum in Russia’s Vladivostok. The project includes two pipeline strings, with a total annual capacity of 55 billion cubic meters of gas, from Russia to Germany under the Baltic Sea.
Earlier, Russian Energy Minister Alexander Novak estimated construction costs at €8 billion ($8.5 billion), but they could reach €9.9 billion ($10.5 billion) including borrowed funds.
Nord Stream 2 AG company has been established to develop and operate the pipeline.
Nord Stream 2 is planned to become operational in 2019. The project needs to be greenlighted by Germany, Finland and Denmark. The main opponents to the new pipeline are Poland and Ukraine. Kiev fears that Nord Stream 2 will diminish its role a transit country for Russian gas supplied to Europe, thus stripping the Ukrainian budget of considerable transit fees.
Russian energy giant Gazprom has made no secret of its efforts over the last few years to bypass Eastern European transit states via several offshore pipeline projects, including Nord Stream 2, Turkish Stream, and South Stream, the last of which was cancelled by Brussels in 2014.
Alexey Grivach, deputy head of the Russian National Energy Security Fund, pointed out that there is visible progress in the implementation of Nord Stream 2.
“Certain progress has been made. The point is that a ban by the European Commission on the construction of Nord Stream 2 would be regarded as politically biased and groundless in terms of law. As a result, Brussels would have to do something to fix the situation. Now it is the right moment to prevent such a scenario,” Grivach told Radio Sputnik.
The expert suggested that constructive developments on Nord Stream 2 will bring Russia-EU relations in the energy field on a positive track.
“The recent developments indicate that the policy of sanctions and a chill in relations have damaged energy cooperation and – broadly – normal coexistence between Russia and the European Union. They are close trade partners destined for cooperation,” the expert said.
According to him, the fact that the European Commission is leaning towards the approval of Nord Stream 2 indicates that both sides have found a way to overcome the stalemate.
“The entire situation looks like a longtime political standoff is being resolved with minimal losses. The majority of Brussels’ claims [against Nord Stream 2] were unjustified. Finally, there is a balanced decision that will end the stalemate without additional legal procedures,” Grivach concluded.