European lawmakers approve resolution calling for an end to Nord Stream 2
On Jan. 21, European lawmakers overwhelmingly voted against the completion of Russia’s Nord Stream 2 pipeline in response to the weekend arrest of Kremlin critic Aleksei Navalny.
A total of 581 out of 705 lawmakers voted to adopt a resolution calling on the European Union to “immediately stop the completion” of the $11 billion Baltic Sea pipeline that would allow Russia’s state giant Gazprom to bring gas to Germany directly, which could expand Moscow’s influence in Europe.
“The EU should no longer be a welcoming place for Russian wealth of unclear origin,” the European Parliament wrote in the resolution’s press statement.
The resolution also called for sanctions on Russian President Vladimir Putin’s inner circle and Russian officials behind Navalny’s arrest.
Navalny was arrested by Russian authorities at Sheremetyevo airport upon his return to Moscow on Jan. 17, after being treated in Berlin for a near-fatal poisoning in August 2020.
Authorities claimed he violated probation terms in a previous criminal case. Navalny, who considers the charges to be politically motivated, faces up to 3.5 years in prison.
Manfred Weber, the leader of the conservative European People’s Party (EPP) faction in the European Parliament and a close ally of German Chancellor Angela Merkel, told German outlet Der Spiegel on Jan. 20 that energy is the EU’s best tool to pressure Russia.
“This is the most powerful instrument we have,” he said. “And the Nord Stream 2 project is therefore one of the ways to generate further pressure.”
However, Merkel said on Jan. 21 that she stood by the project, even though the poisoning of Navalny “could play a role” in her decision.
So far, 6% of the pipeline, about 150 kilometers, remains to be completed.
The U.S. government, Ukraine and several EU members including Poland and the Baltic states want to prevent the pipeline from being completed.
They say it will strengthen Russia’s hold on Europe and undercut Ukraine’s role as a transit country for Russian gas, costing it $3 billion in annual revenue.
The pipeline’s construction was suspended in December 2019 when a Swiss firm pulled its vessels out of the project amid threats of U.S. sanctions, forcing Gazprom to try to complete it with its own resources.
EU foreign affairs chief Josep Borrell said the bloc’s foreign ministers would discuss the issue on Jan. 25, but was cautious on the meeting’s outcome.
“We cannot prevent companies from building it if the German government is in favor of it,” he said.
In December, U.S. lawmakers agreed to expand sanctions on companies involved in the pipeline’s construction, including firms that provide insurance, inspection and certification services. Several companies reportedly pulled out of the project as a result.
Russia has vowed to finish the project.
However, Gazprom has acknowledged in a January Eurobond prospectus that there is a real possibility that the project may be suspended or scrapped due to political pressure.