There are few issues as divisive in the EU as the planned construction of Nord Stream 2, another direct gas infrastructure connection between Germany and the Russian Federation.
With the climate of relations between Russia and the West just above the point of freezing, the agreement between Gazprom (MCX:GAZP) and its Western counterparts Shell (NYSE:RDS-A), OMV (VIE:OMV), ENGIE (EPA:ENGI), Uniper (ETR:UN01), and Wintershall has caused critics of closer relations with Russia to mobilize.
While supporters of the project insist that it isn’t more than a commercial deal (mostly Western European countries and companies), opponents (Central and Eastern Europe) are convinced that the deal will give Moscow more unwanted influence.
Here, we’ll discuss the arguments of opponents and proponents of the proposed gas infrastructure in order to make a modest recommendation regarding Europe’s common interest.
Currently, over almost 40 percent of the gas consumed in the EU originates from Russia, making Moscow the biggest supplier, followed closely by Norway and Algeria. Even though many policy declarations were made to diversify and several serious crises involved Russia, the export of Siberian gas to Europe increased spectacularly — from 8 percent in 2017 to a record 195 bcm.
The most important reasons behind this growth are the expanding economy of the Eurozone and domestic gas fields that are producing less. Although Europe currently possesses 208 bcm of LNG capacity, of that just 51 bcm was used in 2016. Most of the capacity was idle due to much cheaper pipeline gas, especially from Russia.
Proponents, therefore, argue that Nord Stream 2’s importance will increase over the years as demand for imported gas will do the same. Furthermore, several crises over the years between Russia and Ukraine have severely damaged Europe’s energy security (and Russia’s, opponents argue). According to supporters, Nord Stream 2 will improve Europe’s position, as transit through Ukraine can be avoided and risks decreased.
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