The German government has taken its first steps in response to the escalation of the situation in eastern Ukraine by halting the approval process for the controversial Nord Stream 2 natural gas pipeline.
The government in Berlin has requested that the Economics Ministry take the necessary steps to prevent certification of the gas pipeline for now, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz of the center-left Social Democratic Party (SPD) said on Tuesday. "Without this certification, Nord Stream 2 cannot go into operation," Scholz said. The chancellor said it is clear that the situation must now be reassessed and that "all issues that concern us must be taken into account."
As DER SPIEGEL learned early Tuesday from government sources, Economics Minister Robert Habeck of the Green Party, sent a letter to the Federal Network Agency, which reports to his ministry, asking it to withdraw an initially positive certificate, which is critical for the pipeline’s ultimate certification.
The certificate, issued by the previous government at the end of October, addresses the security of Germany’s natural gas supplies which, according to the view at that time, would not be threatened by the operation of Nord Stream 2. But the letter states that this is no longer the case due to a reassessment of the geostrategic situation and in light of the escalation in eastern Ukraine. "Authorization without this certificate isn’t possible," ministry sources told DER SPIEGEL.
Habeck, who is also Germany’s vice chancellor, had been preparing the step for months in response to the buildup of Russian troops on the Ukrainian border. Habeck never shared the view of the pipeline held by Germany’s previous government. In recent weeks, he managed to convince Chancellor Scholz and the Greens’ coalition partner, the SPD, to take this step.
In the coming weeks, the Economics Ministry plans to thoroughly examine the impact of geopolitical developments and the situation in eastern Ukraine on the security of German gas supplies.
Nord Stream 2 is of enormous importance for Russia, in part because it is intended to transport Russian gas through the Baltic Sea to Germany, thus bypassing Ukraine altogether. The 1,230-kilometer (764 miles) long double pipeline has already been completed, but no natural gas has been permitted to flow through it yet. The Federal Network Agency initially suspended the certification process last November and demanded that the operating company be a company that is registered in Germany. Nord Stream 2 AG intends to comply with the requirement by establishing a German subsidiary.