German Economy Minister Robert Habeck and Chancellor Olaf Scholz German Economy Minister: Geopolitics could affect the launch of “Nord Stream – 2”
According to Robert Habek, the approval process for the operation of the gas pipeline will take place in strict compliance with European legislation
The crisis situation in Russian-Ukrainian relations will play a role in the process of issuing a permit for the operation of the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline,” German Economy Minister Robert Habeck said on Friday, using rhetoric more militant than Chancellor Olaf Scholz.
Germany has postponed the approval required to start operation of the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline until at least the second half of 2022, without closing the nearly completed project. US President Joe Biden said on Monday the pipeline would be shut down if Russia invaded Ukraine.
Speaking in Warsaw, Habek, who represents the Green Party in the governing coalition, said the pipeline approval process would take place in strict compliance with European law.
“On the other hand, the geopolitical assessment will always influence the approval of Nord Stream -“, he added.
On Monday, Scholz said the United States and Germany were taking the same approach to Ukraine, Russia and sanctions, without publicly mentioning the name of the pipeline during his visit to Washington.
The question of whether the United States and Germany agree to the $11 billion pipeline project has become crucial as the two largest democracies wage a united front of NATO allies against Russian President Vladimir Putin .
Habek described the situation in Ukraine as “extremely risky”.
“All diplomatic efforts must be made to defuse this situation,” Habek told reporters, adding that Russia would face severe sanctions if diplomacy failed.
“I say this knowing that each of these sanctions will, of course, hurt [Germany’s] own economy,” he added.
Meanwhile, Austrian Foreign Minister Alexander Schallenberg was questioned on Friday “Reuters said Vienna remains opposed to the inclusion of the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline in the sanctions package against Moscow, which the European Union is preparing in the event of a Russian invasion of Ukraine.
The Austrian oil company OMV is one of the partners of the Russian gas company Gazprom in the pipeline construction project. Austria holds a 31.5% stake in OMV and supports the project.
“I compared once [Nord Stream 2] to a car without an engine. He doesn’t even work,” Schallenberg said in a short phone interview. “Discussing it publicly in Europe, as the centerpiece of a sanctions package against Russia, makes no sense to me.”
“It is inconceivable that the German authorities would give technical information about an act of military aggression,” Schallenberg said.
However, Austria would “support a consensus” on sanctions against the pipeline, he said without giving further details. “There is no doubt that in the event of military aggression, the West must give a clear, unified and strong response,” he said.
Apart from the fact that Austria is 80% dependent on natural gas supplies from Russia, Vienna is interested in the Russian banking sector, since this country is the largest market for the Austrian Raiffeisen Bank International. Raiffeisenbank’s total assets in Russia amount to $26.1 billion.