Opinion

2 June, 12:23 PM

Why Europe has to reassess the role of Nord Stream 1, and how this should be done

Olga Bielkova

Director of Corporate Affairs of Gas TSO of Ukraine

In the few years prior to the full-scale war in Ukraine, European countries took many thoughtless steps in energy policy, which have led to sad consequences today.

Flirting with Russia and voluntarily accepting its conditions, even in defiance of European legislation, made the Kremlin's gas noose around Europe's neck a real danger.

If one yields to the basic principles underlying the rules of the EU itself, then sooner or later, this will lead to the consequences that we’re already seeing: Russia is blackmailing the EU by targeting gas weapons at every European citizen.

 But the awareness of European politicians is only part of the story. It is important to act, and in a completely different manner than making formal complaints about the difficulties for economies and how impossible it is to change the status quo.

This, by the way, is what European citizens also demand from their governments, not to mention our expectations. Given the terrible war unleashed by Russia in Ukraine, taking into consideration the brutal crimes of the Russian military against civilians, public opinion in the EU currently knows no compromises.

It raises two main questions: what has been done to overcome energy dependence on Russia, and what is being done to help Ukraine? Now, Ukraine desperately needs weapons, political pressure, and sanctions pressure on the aggressor, and help in rebuilding its destroyed urban infrastructure.

Rapid and drastic steps are also required in the energy sector - if not a complete gas embargo now, then an immediate reshaping of the relationship between EU gas consumers and suppliers.

The requirements of consumers must prevail. Therefore, first and foremost, it is necessary to reconsider the status of the Russian Nord Stream 1 bypass gas pipeline. In 2020, the German government granted a 10-year derogation, exempting this pipeline from European legislation. That is, it partially repealed some provisions for the transportation of gas via Nord Stream 1.

 At the time, the decision was made based on the assumption that the pipeline would help to strengthen the security of gas supply to Europe.

However, this pipeline and Nord Stream 2 were constructed in violation of EU regulations, and exclusively to oust a reliable partner - the Ukrainian Gas Transportation System (GTS) from the European market and to increase economic and political pressure on European countries.

We can state that these routes did not bring new gas to the EU, but they did bring the war to Ukraine.

Ukraine knows better than anyone that Russia's terrorist actions extend to all spheres. We have carefully read the Gazprombank manager's revelations about the funds that were poured into destroying the image of the Ukrainian GTS.

Today, it is clear to everyone exactly how Russia sees "security of supply." One can trace this back to the events of the last six months:

  • The Gas crisis in Europe in autumn 2021. Gazprom was deliberately restricting gas supplies, putting pressure on Germany and EU countries to speed up the launch of the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline, bypassing European legislation; 
  • Occupation by Russian armed groups of the Novopskov gas compressor station, located near the Sokhranivka connection point between Russia and Ukraine, and interference in the technological processes of the compressor station.  Carrying out of unauthorized gas withdrawals from the main gas pipeline. After the Ukrainian side reported about withdrawals by Russian occupiers, Gazprom stopped transit through the Sokhranivka point. Despite the legal and technological possibilities, Gazprom did not respond to the proposal of the Ukrainian side to redirect transit volumes to the Sudzha point, as had been done in October 2020, and continued to manipulate the volumes of gas supplies to EU countries, creating a new artificial shortage of resource;

On May 11, 2022, sanctions were imposed on European gas companies, including the European subsidiaries of Gazprom, by another decree issued by the president of the Russian Federation. In particular, the owner of the section of the Yamal gas pipeline through the territory of Poland, Europol Gaz, fell under these sanctions.

So as to comply with the sanctions, Gazprom stopped gas supplies through Yamal, which demonstrates its unreliability as a gas supplier.

Ukraine, represented by the Gas TSO of Ukraine and Naftogaz, officially applied to the Federal Ministry of Economy and the Federal Network Agency (BNetzA) and gave a pass to German politicians – to start revising the 2020 decision and stopping or limiting Nord Stream 1. To what extent were the hopes for safety justified? Our demand is the demonstration of a constructive, proactive position dictated by the interests of the citizens of the EU and Ukraine.

Should European consumers be afraid of Nord Stream 1 is halted? No! The volumes currently being transited by this gas pipeline can be directed to other gas pipelines, in particular, to the Ukrainian route. Why is this important, and how will it affect the security of gas supply to Europe now?

Some key points: 

  1.    The Ukrainian GTS has spare capacities and meets all the requirements of European legislation;
  2.    The branching of the GTS, the presence of numerous entry and exit points to various EU countries;
  3.    The route is reliable, proven, and in all the years of partnership, the GTS has never violated its own obligations to European consumers;
  4.    The possibility of using Ukrainian gas storage facilities.

It is worth recalling that in the fall of 2021 everyone was sure that Nord Stream 2 would be launched. Nevertheless, we kept fighting. And although there were a lot of people and ideas on how to stop this project, thanks to the certification procedure and the political position of the German Ministry of Economy, Germany announced on February 22 of this year that Nord Stream 2 was in a coma. We are trying to use the same procedures to encourage European elites to halt the Russian Nord Stream 1 project.

At one time, Europe did not realize that Nord Stream 1 and Nord Stream 2 posed a threat to gas security in the long run and even gave in to their own principles by compromising with a country accustomed to not sticking to its commitments.

We propose that this mistake is corrected now.

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