The member of the Lithuanian parliament believes that the criticism of European officials about the US sanctions against the Russian gas pipeline ignores the opinion of the eastern EU countries
At the end of December last year, the US President signed a law on sanctions against companies involved in the construction of the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline, which will supply Russian natural gas across the Baltic Sea to Germany. The project, which is actively defended not only by Moscow, but also by Berlin, provokes protests in Europe, primarily from Poland and the Baltic countries, which fear an increase in the dependence of the entire region on Russian gas. Supporters of the project believe that Europe needs more gas, and potential risks can be mitigated by diversifying energy supply channels.
American sanctions have led to the cessation of near-completion work after the main Swiss company AllSeas Group involved in laying pipes on the bottom of the Baltic Sea announced the suspension of its work..
The US sanctions drew criticism from European officials – the head of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen said that this body “categorically rejects sanctions against European companies that participate in projects in accordance with the law,” and called the US sanctions “external interference” in European affairs. European Trade Commissioner Phil Hogan also said that Brussels “opposes the imposition of sanctions against any EU companies conducting legitimate business.” According to Hogan, “The goal of the European Commission has always been to ensure that Nord Stream 2 operates in a transparent and non-discriminatory manner with an appropriate degree of regulatory oversight.”.
In turn, US Ambassador to Germany Richard Grenell called the sanctions on Nord Stream 2 a “pro-European solution,” recalling in an interview with the German newspaper Bild am Sonntag: “15 countries, as well as the European Commission and the European Parliament, expressed concern about the project. We have heard from our European partners that the United States should support them. ” The diplomat also added that a number of European diplomats expressed gratitude for the imposition of sanctions by the United States..
Nord Stream 2 is the second part of the Russian gas pipeline under the Baltic Sea to Germany – the first branch of Nord Stream 1 was laid in 2011. Last week, Moscow also commissioned a second branch of the Turkish Stream to deliver Russian gas across the Black Sea to Turkey and for its further distribution across European countries. On Wednesday, January 8, the presidents of Russia and Turkey officially opened this gas pipeline in Istanbul. A number of analysts express concern that Turkish Stream is also increasing Europe’s dependence on Russian gas and political pressure from Moscow..
Emanuelis Zingeris, a member of the Lithuanian parliament, shared his vision of the situation around Nord Stream 2 from the Voice of America Russian service. He decided to develop a resolution in support of US sanctions, which also condemns the official criticism of the EU on US sanctions..
Valeria Egisman: Please tell us what your resolution is?
Emanuelis Zingeris: The resolution was adopted by the Subcommittee on Foreign Affairs and Transatlantic Relations, which I chair. It supports the US sanctions imposed on Nord Stream 2 and condemns the subsequent criticism of the sanctions by EU officials..
Nord Stream 2 is built on politically corrupt schemes between Germany and Russia and, as many politicians have said, it is not just a commercial project. It brings with it enormous political influence over the European Union from Russia and makes Europe more dependent on Russian gas. Russia today is not a democratic country, and the current Russian authorities are not friendly towards the EU.
And I am concerned about criticism from EU officials in response to US sanctions, in particular from Trade Commissioner Phil Hogan or European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen. I disagree with these statements, and I have a question, why does Brussels speak on behalf of all EU countries? Where does such a mandate come from, in particular, to speak out against US sanctions on behalf of Lithuania? I have not heard many other voices against these statements by Brussels from countries that also oppose the construction of Nord Stream 2, and I am partly concerned about this. I hope that we will hear a dialogue within the EU on this topic, and that colleagues from the Baltic countries and Poland will also join my voice..
At the moment I am deciding whether to submit the resolution to a full vote in the Lithuanian parliament. This will, of course, lead to extensive debate. But I think we should speak out both in support of US sanctions and ask the question of the legitimacy of the EU’s criticism. In my resolution, I also rely on the opinion of the legislators in the US lower house, who adopted a resolution last year that called for US sanctions on Nord Stream 2, and also expressed support for European energy security through diversification to reduce gas dependence on Russia..
VE: The Baltic countries and Poland openly opposed the construction of Nord Stream 2, nevertheless, the construction was in full swing. Do you think the western EU countries do not hear the voices of their eastern neighbors??
E.Z .: It should be noted that at one time the Baltic countries and Poland actively opposed the construction of Nord Stream-1. About ten years ago, the then President of Lithuania Valdas Adamkus expressed his negative attitude towards this project. This was in the last days of his tenure as German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, who actively insisted on the importance of having the first string of this pipeline, but he already had an agreement on future work for Gazprom in his pocket..
During these ten years, as I see it, there was a struggle, especially in Germany, between the parties who supported the political money of Russia and those who advocated the independence of Europe from Russian gas. To my regret, in Germany, there was a partial surrender of political positions – both from the “Christian Democratic Union” of Angela Merkel and from the Social Democratic Party.
But we see the so-called process of “schroederization” not only in Germany, but also in many other European countries. Yes, sanctions against Russia remain in force in Europe due to the annexation of Crimea and the war in eastern Ukraine, and the EU condemns Russian aggression, but in many issues, I believe, we see a weakening of European values under the influence of the Kremlin and its money. In particular, in matters of energy security. We also see the rise of far-right and ultra-left parties in Europe, often backed by the Kremlin..
Germany is, of course, an important partner for Lithuania. In particular, we are hosting German soldiers as part of NATO’s rotational forces, and we are working with Berlin to combat the rise of radical political movements. But we do not agree with the issues regarding the “Nord Stream-2”.
And if Germany speaks out against US sanctions on this pipeline, we may not agree with this, but this is the legitimate opinion of one country. Another question, if the European Union does this on behalf of all countries, this is where I have a question for Brussels. More than 15 years have passed since the accession of the Baltic States and Poland to the EU. We are a single union and we need a greater manifestation of solidarity with the geopolitical interests of the eastern flank of the EU countries.
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Yes, the European Union has adopted a number of documents on the diversification of energy sources, but, as I see, there is a monopolization of energy sources by Germany under the auspices of the European Union, in fact, against the interests of a number of countries. I believe that this partially undermines confidence within the EU and raises the question of the significance of the votes of the new members of the union..
V.Ye .: What do you think of the point of view according to which the United States has no right to impose sanctions against Nord Stream 2, and that this is interference in the internal affairs of Europe??
E.Z .: The United States guaranteed the security of Europe and the opposition to the Soviet bloc after World War II. Until now, in the same Germany there are over 40 thousand American soldiers, and almost 70% of all defense spending in NATO falls on the United States. From this point of view, the United States has every right to speak out on issues related to geopolitics, and Nord Stream 2 is a geopolitical, not just a commercial project. Moreover, the geopolitical project of Russia is a country where energy resources have always been and remain today associated with politics, and not just with commerce..
We are concerned about Europe’s dependence on Russian gas. For our part, in Lithuania, we were able to get away from this dependence, including by building a terminal for liquefied natural gas in Klaipeda. This construction cost us quite a lot, but it allowed us to both reduce gas prices and start importing it from other sources. We demonopolized our gas market from Russia.
V.Ye .: How do you look at the fact that the sanctions on Nord Stream 2 by the United States were introduced later than it could have been?
E.Z .: Yes, of course, these are somewhat belated sanctions. Nord Stream 2 is likely to be completed, maybe in six months or a year. The late imposition of the sanctions shows that China may be the top priority for the United States, rather than Russia. And the sanctions that we saw are directed against a fairly small part of the project – the pipe-laying companies involved in the construction, and not against, say, those who finance this project. Undoubtedly, these sanctions are, in some sense, a symbolic gesture. But this symbolic gesture is also very important and had to be done..
Journalist «Voices of America». Prior to that, she worked for international non-governmental organizations in Washington DC and London, in the Russian-language version of the Estonian daily newspaper “Postimees” and as a spokesman for the Estonian Interior Ministry. Interests – international relations, politics, economics