Pipeline Politics Schröder Takes Lobby Work to Brussels
Former German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder, who now heads the supervisory board of a Gazprom subsidiary, is turning to Brussels for political help in clearing the way for a gas pipeline between Germany and Russia. Estonia is refusing to give the company permits to do surveying work in its waters.
Former German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder is hoping to generate support for his controversial pipeline project at the European Commision.
At the end of this month, the pipeline's managers want to convince the European Commission of the value of their project in order to counter further opposition in the run-up to construction.
The Estonian government, though, is staunchly opposed to the project, and has rejected requests to allow Nord Stream to conduct a geological survey of the seabed within its territorial waters. "Our main position has always been that this pipeline in the Baltic Sea is not advisable at all," Estonian Foreign Minister Urmas Paet told a public TV station in September, according to the news agency Bloomberg. "There have never been any disagreements about that. We will not allow the building of this pipeline in our economic zone."
A number of countries have voiced their concerns about the project because the Baltic Sea floor is full of munitions discharged there after World War II. Both Estonia and Sweden say it will also damage the environment.
Graphic: The pipeline route
One option for Nord Stream would be to sue in an Estonian court, but with the planned start date for construction nearing, the company hopes to avoid that step. Russian and German steel factories have already been given contracts in the order of the three-digit millions to supply the steel pipes for the project. Contracts have also been negotiated for the special ships to be used to lay the undersea pipeline, with 2008 being given as a starting date for construction. And by the end of this year, the Gazprom subsidiary plans to present an environmental impact report on the 5 billion ($7 billion) project to the Baltic states affected by the pipeline.
Finland has said it would allow the pipeline to pass through its waters if Estonia doesn't change its stance. But the company believes the alternative route would cause greater damage to the Baltic seabed and to the environment.