Nord Stream 2: Russia is a reliable partner, top German politician says

My email interview with Klaus Barthel, (SPD), Deputy Chairman of the Economic Affairs and Energy Committee of the Bundestag. The interview was first time published in Slovak in Pravda.

1. Neither Slovakia is happy about Nord Stream 2, nor European Commision. PM Robert Fico said it a betrayal. According Bratislava this project goes against Ukraine, against Slovakia, against EU energy policy and it boosts Russian position. How serious does Germany care about this criticism, how will you deal with this criticism?

Germany has a debate in favour of more independence from any energy resource and from any state or region. This concerns gas from Russia as well as oil from Saudi-Arabia or coal from China. This is one of the main reasons for our energy–transition–policy. Our goal is to replace fossil and nuclear energy by renewable energies. We are hoping for support for this strategy from the European level and our neighbor states. Climate change and nuclear radiation do not stop at any national.

2. When Nord Stream 2 was announced from the first moment it was clear it will face criticism. How much was this project debated with the EU partners before it was announced?

As a parliamentarian I don`t know very much about debates with our EU-partners. But I know that nearly all our EU-partners regard energy systems and energy supply as a matter of national sovereignty. The one`s coal is the other`s nuclear power is the other`s gas from Libya or Russia. We may regret this, but it is a fact. I hope this will change and we will come to a real dialogue.

3. How do you see the role of Russia on European energy market? No way EU should abandon Russia as supplier, but for Russia is the energy policy also as a tool of coercion and again Nord Stream 2 boosts the position of Russia.

Germany`s experience is that the former Soviet Union and now Russia is a very reliable partner. Not even in the period of deapest cold war we had any pressure or “coercion” in our economic relations. This was and is in both sides interest. We have a both sides dependence, because Russia knows that its gas-business would suddenly and on the long run be finished if they tried to use it as a political tool.

4. According to media reports Vice Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel said he would ensure that construction of the pipeline would remain legal in the eyes of the German authorities. He also made it clear that Brussels should have limited involvement with the project. Is this kind of behavior towards Russia really necessary?

We will carefully survey the legality of the installation of North Stream 2 which is a private and not a state project. The EU-commission should not succumb to temptation to take energy policy as a hidden vehicle of foreign policy. Nevertheless a critical debate about the conduct of the Russian government is necessary. But this is a matter of foreign policies and should be treated as this.

5. Is Nord Stream 2 really needed, what does this project mean for EU energy policy and broader for the efforts to build the energy union?

The reality of the European energy system is, that it is a liberalized market. The question is not whether something is “needed” but whether it promises enough profit. The European Energy Union has to define, how much “market” we want to have and how much “state” or policies and: what kind of market and what kind of policies. But it is impossible to discuss this according to the motto: whatever you like – once it is the market and another time it is the state. So: we can`t look at the Energy Union from the view to single projects; we should look at the projects from a common strategy.

6. From Germany’s point of view how do you evaluate progress regarding building of energy union, what are the most important issues energy union should deal with?

As said before, the Energy Union in the moment is only existing on the paper and as an order principle. But there are steps in the right direction: in October 2014 the European Council decided a 2030 framework for European Climate and Energy Policies with concrete targets concerning greenhouse-gas emissions, the share of renewable energy production and energy efficiency. In February 2015 the European Commission published its commitment about the five dimensions of the Energy Union, as one of the ten priorities of the work in during period. For us it is clear that a real energy transition can only be successful and effective in a European context, for example with a certain degree of combine of the supply systems. All that can save huge capacities, bring more independence and security-as well as lower costs for the consumers and the environment

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