The European Union should negotiate the terms of the North Stream 2 pipeline, which would double the existing pipeline’s capacity to bring Russian gas to Europe, according to 13 of 28 nations in the continental bloc, a new Reuters report said.
“We had 13 delegations intervening, with all of them being supportive of the Commission’s approach,” Commission Vice President Maros Sefcovic told Reuters by phone. “I am definitely optimistic about getting the mandate, but I know this is just the beginning of the debate.”
Germany, which would be the direct recipient of the new energy supplies, strongly supports the pipeline expansion, but some of Berlin’s allies spoke against the project, citing the leverage it would add to President Vladimir Putin’s geopolitics, especially regarding Ukraine.
Berlin believes the European Commission does not need to play a part in negotiations with Russia, because the project is only a commercial enterprise. Italy, along with Nordic, Eastern European and Baltic nations, supported EU intervention on the pipeline. France, a partner in the Nord Stream 2 project, declined to take the floor.
Russia and its state firm Gazprom cover one-third of Europe’s gas needs, though the EU continues sanctions against Moscow for its annexation of Crimea and activities in the Ukraine.
New EU negotiations with Russia could delay Nord Stream 2 to post-2019, giving Western-backed Ukraine the upper hand in talks on transit fees for Russian gas passing through to Europe. The route through Kiev is currently the most popular for gas supplies headed to Europe. Nord Stream 2 would bypass Ukraine, cutting off a key revenue source for the ex-Soviet nation.
Nord Stream 2 has also been the target of new U.S. sanctions against Russia, though not explicitly, as Washington seeks to punish the Kremlin for its alleged interference in the 2016 presidential elections, as well as for its role in Syria and Ukraine.