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Germany, France compromise on Nord Stream 2

February 8, 2019

Overcoming differences between Paris and Berlin, EU diplomats reached a deal on the pipeline, placing stricter regulations on the project. France said it wanted to "ensure European control" of its own energy needs.

Part of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline | Verlegeschiff Audacia
Image: picture-alliance/dpa/B. Wüstneck

France and Germany have reached a compromise that will allow Berlin to remain the lead negotiator with Russia on the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline, European leaders confirmed on Friday.

"Regarding the gas directive, we have reached an agreement and this was possible because Germany and France worked closely together," German Chancellor Angela Merkel told a joint news conference with Malian President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita.

"Today is a good day, and that is because of French-German cooperation."

The two EU countries have now agreed to ensure oversight will come from the "territory and territorial sea of the member state where the first interconnection point is located."

Merkel called the pipeline a "purely economic project" that will guarantee cheaper, more reliable gas supplies.

France's Foreign Ministry had earlier signaled its intention to vote for changes to the EU's Third Energy Package Gas Directive regulating gas imports.

Read more: Nord Stream 2 pipeline row highlights Germany's energy dependence on Russia

'There is no French-German crisis'

France had said it would support EU oversight of new offshore energy pipelines in a move that could have quashed the undersea pipeline plans between Russia and Germany.

After the deal was struck, French President Emmanuel Macron's government was keen to stress that "there is no French-German crisis."

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"The dependence on Russian gas worries us," a spokesman told the dpa news agency. "For that reason, it is important to us to ensure European control so that this dependence does not increase."

The compromise reached on Friday, which is not legally binding until it is approved by the European Parliament, was backed by every member state except Bulgaria.

If approved by Brussels, the agreement could complicate things for Russian energy giant Gazprom, which would then have to follow EU regulations and would no longer be the sole operator of the pipeline.

Read more: What's behind America's Nord Stream objections?

Pipeline opposition

The Nord Stream 2 project faces opposition from many countries in eastern and central Europe, the United States and particularly Ukraine, because it risks increasing Europe's dependence on Russian natural gas.

In a guest commentary written for DW, the US ambassadors to Germany, Denmark and the EU warned that the Nord Stream 2 pipeline would drastically increase Russia's energy leverage over the EU.

"European Union reliance on Russian gas presents risks for Europe and the West as a whole and makes us all less secure," the ambassadors said. "The Nord Stream 2 pipeline will heighten Europe's susceptibility to Russia's energy blackmail tactics."

Read more: TurkStream: Who profits, who loses out?

Along with the planned TurkStream pipeline across the Black Sea, Nord Stream 2 would mean Russia could also bypass Ukraine in providing gas to Europe, robbing it of transit fees and a major strategic asset.

The draft compromise addressed these concerns, saying: "We consider a [gas rules] directive in this spirit indispensable for a fruitful discussion on the future gas transit through Ukraine."

Read more: Russia and Ukraine in 2019: More conflict ahead?

Construction of Nord Stream 2 has already started and involves companies such as Germany's Wintershall and Uniper, Dutch-British Shell, France's Engie and Austria's OMV.

Merkel plays down concerns over gas pipeline Nord Stream 2

law,es/sms (AFP, dpa, Reuters)