NordStream 2 opening faces delay as both of Germany’s kingmaker parties oppose controversial pipeline

Germany’s knife-edge election is proving a headache not only for the politicians tasked with forming a coalition government, but also for Russia, which fears it could derail the multi-billion-dollar Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline.  

The Greens and the Free Democratic Party (FDP) are expected to become kingmakers in coalition talks, after the centre-left Social Democrats edged ahead of the Christian Democrats, the party of outgoing chancellor Angela Merkel. 

Both parties have expressed opposition to the Russian pipeline, for geopolitical as well as environmental reasons. The project was controversially backed by Mrs Merkel. 

The pipeline, which links northern Germany with Russian gas via the sea, was finished in early September, taking three years to build amid delays caused by political opposition and US sanctions.

Prior to the election the first gas was expected to flow as soon as German regulators gave the green light in October. 

Nord Stream 2

But now the future of the project hangs in the balance as the parties begin coalition talks on Friday, which are likely to be protracted.

Olaf Scholz, leader of the Social Democrats, has claimed he has a mandate to lead the country after winning the biggest share of the votes, while Armin Laschet has faced calls to resign after leading the Christian Democrats to their worst post-war results.

The Green Party took some 15 per cent of the vote in Sunday’s German parliamentary elections, and leader Annalena  Baerbock is poised to take up a high government position.

German media reports she could become foreign minister, which would significantly complicate energy talks between Russia and Germany.  

Russian state newspaper Rossiyskaya Gazeta wrote on Tuesday that “even taking into account the European interest in Russian gas, the election results in Germany pose a real threat to Nord Stream 2.”

Tabloid Komsomolskaya Pravda highlighted that Ms Baerbock previously indicated she would oppose the project “even after it was finished”.

Annalena Baerbock, leader of the Greens, has been vehemently opposed to the pipeline since its conception

Credit: ANNEGRET HILSE
/REUTERS

Prior to the election, Ms Baerbock told Germany’s FAZ newspaper: "I still think this pipeline is wrong, for reasons of climate policy, but above all for geostrategic reasons."

The FDP’s leader, Christian Lindner, suggested he would support the project “when the Russian people have elected a democratic government in free self-determination".

The new German government may still try to revise specific agreements with Russia on the gas pipeline, a German official told Russian newspaper Izvestia. 

“Even if the Greens do not lead the coalition, the formation of a new government will nevertheless be followed by a revision of Germany’s energy policy,” said Urs Unkauf, a representative of the Federal Association for Economic Development and Foreign Trade in Germany.

Despite geopolitical tensions and push for green energy, Europe is still heavily reliant on Russian gas, which accounts for 40 per cent of the EU’s gas imports.

The EU is facing a looming energy shortage ahead of the cold winter and amid soaring gas prices, while Russian energy giant Gazprom has already rejected an option to maximize gas shipments to Europe.

US diplomats were concerned the additional pipeline would make western Europe far too reliant on Russian gas, and allow Moscow to “weaponise” energy supply.

The pipeline through the Baltic Sea has also been vigorously opposed by Ukraine, which has been battling pro-Moscow separatists since 2014 and sees the transit of Russian gas through its territory as vital leverage.

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