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Nord Stream extension ruffles feathers

December 18, 2015

A planned extension of Russia's Nord Stream pipeline has drawn massive protests at a summit of EU leaders in Brussels. Eastern Europeans argued the project would contradict the bloc's aim to diversify energy supplies.

Nord Stream worker
Image: picture-alliance/dpa/S. Sauer

The planned extension of the 1,224-kilometer (760-mile) Nord Stream gas pipeline triggered a major debate at an EU summit as it had all the ingredients of a geopolitical drama in the making.

A longer Nord Stream-2 is part of an effort by the Russian energy giant Gazprom to deliver gas to Europe by circumventing Ukraine. And the project involves Germany, which is now being accused of conveniently sweeping aside lofty EU values of energy diversification and becoming less dependent on deliveries from Russia.

Nord Stream runs from Russia beneath the Baltic Sea into Germany, and its extension would see the construction of two new underwater pipelines to supply an additional 55 billion cubic meters of gas annually to Germany and other EU countries.

Differing views, no progress

But the project appears to be a thorn in the side of European Council President Donald Tusk. He said in Brussels Friday the extension did not meet EU energy rules on supply diversification and would undermine Ukraine's role as a gas transit state.

Tusk conceded, though, it would be up to the European Commission to make a final ruling.

Ukraine seeks freedom from Russian gas

German Chancellor Angela Merkel was very cautious in her response to Tusk's underlying message that the bloc's values were neglected when economic interests were at stake in Berlin.

Merkel said that by and large Nord Stream-2 was a private project, meaning lots of private investors were interested in it. But she added it was clear that any extension of the pipeline had to be put on a sound legal footing, adding that Ukraine's role as a transit country for gas must be considered in due course.

hg/uhe (Reuters, dpa)