Nord Stream has received its final permit from Germany for the construction of a gas pipeline under the Baltic Sea to directly link Russia with western Europe. Critics are voicing environmental concerns.
Transit lines through Ukraine and Poland have led to disruptions in the past
Germany has given its second and final approval for the Nord Stream project. The 1200 kilometer-long (745 miles) pipeline is to link the Russian city of Vyborg with Greifswald in Germany via Finnish, Swedish and Danish waters, to provide gas to western European countries.
On Monday the German Federal Maritime and Hydrographic Agency granted its permit for the 31 kilometer section in Germany's exclusive economic zone. The permit for the 50 kilometer stretch through Berlin's territorial waters was granted on December 22.
Monday's decision marks the final approval from Germany for the 7.5 billion euro ($10.8 billion) project. Approval from Denmark, Sweden and Russia has already been granted.
Finnish approval still outstanding
The pipeline is expected to provide more stable supplies to western Europe
The only outstanding permit remaining is from Finland but Nord Stream on Monday said it was confident that the construction of the pipeline would go ahead as planned.
"We are firmly on schedule to start construction of the pipeline in spring 2010 and to start transporting gas in 2011," said the company's managing director, Matthias Warnig.
The pipeline is to deliver 55 billion cubic meters of Russian gas to western Europe each year.
The Nord Stream project is led by the Russian state-owned energy company Gazprom in cooperation with German partners E.ON Ruhrgas and BASF-Wintershall.
Criticism from Ukraine and Poland
The project has been strongly criticized by environmentalist groups who say it puts the ecosystem of the Baltic Sea at risk.
Poland and Ukraine have criticized Nord Stream for taking business away from land pipelines across their territory. Warsaw and Kyiv are concerned about losing both transit revenues and bargaining power when it comes to future gas supplies from Russia to Poland and Ukraine.
Gas transit through Ukraine had repeatedly suffered disruptions in recent years when price disputes between Moscow and Kyiv led to interruptions of gas supplies not only to Ukraine but also to several EU countries.
Editor: Susan Houlton