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Baltic States Want Energy Cooperation Despite Pipeline Row

DPA News Agency (win)June 4, 2008

The Baltic states and Poland want to join energy, environment and economic development projects in the Baltic Sea region despite their opposition to a planned Russian-German underwater gas pipeline.

A man checks a pipeline segment
The Baltic Sea pipeline between Germany and Russia has angered many neighborsImage: AP

The assertion came at the start of a summit of the Council of the Baltic Sea States (CBSS) attended by leaders from 10 of the 12 members on Wednesday, June 4. Only German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin were absent from the talks in the Latvian capital, Riga.

The CBSS plans a series of reforms aimed at promoting safer environmental and economic development in the region, Danish Prime Minister Andres Fogh Rasmussen said.

Speaking to reporters, Poland's Prime Minister Donald Tusk reiterated his country's opposition to the 1,200-kilometer (745-mile) pipeline expected to link Vyborg in Russia with Germany's Greifswald via the Baltic Sea.

"We believe that the gas transfer by land would be cheaper and more effective," he said.

Pipeline protests

Finland and Sweden joined Poland and the three Baltic states in their criticism of the Nord Stream pipeline, which is backed by Russian gas monopoly giant Gazprom and German firms EON Ruhrgas and BASF/Wintershall, citing environmental and safety concerns.

The council, whose members include the European Commission, plans to focus on the environment, economic development, energy, the fight against human trafficking and nuclear security, the prime ministers said in a statement.

The organization was established 15 years ago to promote a stable, democratic Europe at the time when some of its members had broken away from the Soviet Union and attempted to form their own democratic institutions.

No longer needed?

Since then all but two of its members have joined the European Union and the council has faced accusations of being inefficient and irrelevant in modern-day Europe.

It is seeking to change this by refocusing on developing the EU's external relations with non-members Iceland, Norway and Russia.

"Without the EU the CBSS would be naught, but also the EU needs this sort of regional cooperation. In this sense, organizations like the CBSS or the European Dialogue in the Mediterranean are essential for making EU policies work," Scandinavian expert Vilhelm Konnander told DPA news agency.

Denmark takes over the CBSS's presidency in July. The next summit is to be held in Lithuania in 2010.