The European Parliament by voting at the plenary session finally approved the amendments to the EU Gas Directive, which deal with the rules of operation of the offshore sections of gas pipelines in the European Union, including the Nord Stream. This is another step towards limiting Gazprom’s ability to supply gas to Europe.
First of all, we are talking about the fate of Nord Stream II, which, according to statements by European officials, will not be so attractive for investors and gas pipeline users. In connection with the amendment to the European Parliament announced the end of the era of the Russian gas monopoly. The builders of the SP-2 stated that the pipe-laying did not stop, and experts hope that the SP-2 will be able to apply the same exceptions to the European rules, which allowed the first Nord Stream to work at full capacity.
The draft law extends the Third Energy Package to gas pipelines to the European Union from other countries along the territorial seas of the EU states. Now they are also subject to the requirement to separate gas extraction and transportation activities, when the gas supplier cannot be a gas pipeline operator and must have capacity (50%) reserved for independent traders. It threatens Nord Stream 2 with the fact that the gas pipeline may turn out to be half-empty, since there are no alternative suppliers to Gazprom.
Now Nord Stream 2 AG, created for the planning, construction and operation of the Nord Stream - 2, belongs to Gazprom, which expects to pump gas through this pipe. As for the current Nord Stream, Nord Stream AG was engaged in construction and is the operator of the gas pipeline, its majority shareholder is also Gazprom with a 51% share.
Although the head of the European Parliament (EP) Committee on Industry, Research, Telecommunications and Energy (ITRE) Jerzy Buzek stated that the EU gas directive is not directed against any country or supplier, it is clear that now with new amendments the document creates problems for the Russian exporter . The pipe comes from the territory of Russia, Gazprom builds it, which can only export pipeline gas from the Russian Federation, so Russian laws do not allow someone to enter the pipeline.
Representing one of the main opponents of the construction of the SP-2 - Poland - Buzek said that too often gas supplies were used as a political weapon, but now the era of external monopolies in the EU gas market, which for years forced consumers to pay much higher electricity bills, is over ..
But it is unlikely that the inhabitants of Germany, the main buyer of Russian gas, would agree with this statement of the Polish representative. According to analysts, thanks to cheaper Russian gas, the industry manages to remain competitive in world markets in this country.
On the eve of voting, Buzek told reporters that the Nord Stream - 2 would have to comply with all the requirements of EU legislation. However, of course, it will be less beneficial for investors and those who use the pipeline.
The European Commission proposed amendments to the Gas Directive as early as November 2017, but Germany strongly opposed Brussels to make decisions about its exit to the Russian pipeline. The process was only shifted by agreeing a compromise solution by the governments of France and Germany: in the current, fifth version of the draft changes to the Gas Directive, not Brussels, but Berlin will decide on granting “Nord Stream 2” to exceptions to European energy standards.
The company Nord Stream 2 stressed that, before entering into force, the bill must pass an official approval by the EU Council. According to some media reports, the final approval of the amendments to the EU Gas Directive by the Council of Ministers is expected on April 15. However, there is evidence that the date of the meeting can still change, and the amendments can be accepted even without discussion. According to experts, a possible compromise is that although “Nord Stream - 2” will be subject to EU antitrust regulation, however, exclusion from this regulation is for it as a whole or for a separate company that will manage the last section of the undersea pipe, will give the Germany.
However, the risks remain. Berlin will have to coordinate its decision regarding the exclusion from the regime of antimonopoly regulation with the European Commission. The work of the Eugal gas pipeline and other infrastructure in Germany, which will receive gas from Nord Stream 2, will also have to be coordinated. The question remains as to how all these coordination processes will take place. It is possible that there are still rounds of struggle for the interpretation of the norms of EU law. And only on the future position of the German government and interested companies of European countries will it be seen in whose favor political intrigues have ended. Most likely, in the end, it will be possible to agree on such a mode of operation for both Nord Stream - 2 and Eugal, in which they will be fully loaded. This is evidenced by the experience of many years of struggle around the OPAL gas pipeline, branches from Nord Stream 1, which ended with the victory of Gazprom and its partners, and the restrictions were lifted.
As stated in Nord Stream 2, the project is ongoing in accordance with current legislation and with the full support of financial investors. As of the end of March 2019, more than 900 km of pipes have already been laid in accordance with the available permits.