This is not the first time that Klaus Ernst, a member of the Bundestag from the opposition Left Party, has made a statement in favor of Nord Stream 2. A month ago, he was in an interview with RBC denied Russia’s involvement in the sharp rise in gas prices in Europe; and the very fact of Russian “gas blackmail” aimed at speeding up the certification of a new gas pipeline.
Ernst’s new thesis is no less dubious than the previous one. Indeed, the Federal Network Agency (Bundesnetzagentur, BNetzA) – the German regulator of the gas market – must give an opinion on the compliance of Nord Stream 2 with EU legislation no later than January. But BNetzA’s decision will not mean the pipeline will be put into operation immediately.
As Katya Yafimova, a German regulator at the Oxford Institute for Energy Research, explained in early November. maybe only to offer the European Commission to certify the gas pipeline. The German proposal is given two months to consider, and if the European Commission deems it necessary to consult with the Agency for Cooperation of European Regulatory Bodies, Germany or other interested parties, this period may increase to four months. And after the positive conclusion of the European Commission, BNetzA will have another two months to finalize the formalities. Thus, the start of operation of Nord Stream 2 may be postponed until July, although, in principle, the terms of consideration of the issue in each of the instances could be somewhat shortened.
But Klaus Ernst is silent that Germany cannot certify the gas pipeline itself; European authorities must do this. And what he calls “some uncertainties” is actually a very serious problem. For certification, it is necessary to confirm that the gas pipeline meets the requirements of the EU Third Energy Package, in particular, the one according to which the pipeline operator and the gas supplier cannot belong to the same person. Now Nord Stream 2 AG is wholly owned by a subsidiary of Gazprom, which will be the only gas supplier through the pipeline.
As Yafimova explains, European legislation allows for several models of company separation. According to one of them, the operator can remain inside the vertically integrated enterprise if it is guaranteed that it will not be able to prevent third parties from accessing the pipeline. This is exactly what Gazprom is counting on.
But there is no consensus in Europe as to whether Nord Stream 2 AG meets these criteria. According to reports, the European Commission believes that in this case the ownership unbundling model should be applied, that is, for certification of the gas pipeline Gazprom will be forced to sell it, and the buyer cannot be controlled by the Russian state, which owns more than 50% of Gazprom’s shares. …
And it will be extremely difficult to find a buyer, since he has every chance of being under US sanctions. In September 2021, the American House of Representatives accepted the defense budget law for 2022, which provides for sanctions “against any organization responsible for the planning, construction or operation of the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline, or its successor.” Moreover, the US presidential administration is deprived of the right to refuse to impose sanctions. The law has already passed two readings in the Senate.
However, due to the emergency situation on the gas market, BNetzA still has the opportunity to allow temporary supply of limited volumes of gas until the certification process is completed. But this will not solve the problem of permanent commissioning of the gas pipeline. According to Yafimova, an important factor will be the issue of guarantees for the continuation of gas transit through Ukraine after 2024, when the current contract expires.