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Pipeline Doubts

DW staff (jam)November 7, 2007

Poland's incoming prime minister, Donald Tusk, has said that worries about natural gas supplies and the environment might mean an end to the planned pipeline that would ship Russian supplies directly to Germany.

Work is underway at the start of Baltic gas pipelineImage: AP

The natural gas pipeline has come under intense criticism from Poland and the ex-Soviet Baltic states since it would bypass their countries, and they fear it would enable Moscow to cut supplies to them while continuing providing gas to western Europe. Other Baltic Sea nations have said the pipeline poses a major risk to the environment.

"This initiative, this project, has not been prepared well," Tusk, who is due to be nominated Polish prime minister this week, said at a news conference.

"I hope and I hear some signals that in the nearest future the sponsors of the project would be ready to seriously correct it," he added, with providing details.

Interior of Nord Stream's pipeline
The pipeline links Russia's gas fields with energy-hungry German consumersImage: AP

The undersea pipeline will eventually run 1,200 kilometers (750 miles) from the northwestern Russian port of Vyborg to the northern German port of Greifswald, bypassing current routes through Poland, Belarus and Ukraine.

The pipeline has been a source of friction between Poland and Germany in recent years. Poland has insisted on alternative routes for the link. One option, called Amber, would have the natural gas run through the three Baltic states -- Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania -- and Poland before reaching Germany.

Russia is said to be less amenable to this idea, given that its relations with the Baltic states and Poland are frosty.

The pipeline is being built by the Russian-led Nord Stream consortium, which includes Russia's Gazprom and German companies BASF and E.ON. Gazprom currently holds 51 percent of the project while E.ON and BASF each hold a 20-percent stake.

Dutch participation

On Tuesday, Nov. 6, Russian and Dutch officials signed an agreement reported worth 5 billion euros ($7.24 billion) to bring the Dutch gas giant Nederlandse Gasunie NV into the project. The Dutch company will have a 9 percent stake.

pipeline worker
Poland and the Baltic states worry about future supplies.Image: AP

Under the deal Gazprom gets an option on 9 percent of the recently built BBL gas pipeline linking Britain and the Netherlands. The agreement was signed in Moscow at a ceremony that included Dutch Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende and Russian President Vladimir Putin.

"The participation of a Dutch company in the North European Gas Pipeline project makes this a truly multilateral project and of course creates better conditions for its realization," Putin said in an Interfax news agency report.

The deal is seen as good news for the troubled project, which has been plagued by cost overruns, planning delays and opposition from several EU countries.