Nord Stream 2 has become a controversial project, which already divides Europe. While Germany has agreed with Russia for the sake of its economic interests, the European Union is pushing for constructive dialogue regarding Nord Stream 2. Ukraine is definitely the biggest victim here. Many argue that in the situation when Russia does not need Ukraine to send its gas to the EU, there will be nothing to stop Russia from whole invasion of the country. Ukraine’s neighbour – Poland also loses its transit status due to the prospective project. German leadership keeps assuring Ukraine in keeping transit status of the country even with Nord Stream 2. However, no one can tell who is to provide guarantees and which amount of gas will be sent to Europe through Ukraine.
Last week, the EU made one more attempt to bring the spirit of dialogue into Nord Stream 2 project. The European Commission, Permanent Representation of Poland to the EU, Mission of Ukraine to the EU and the US Mission to the EU organised a conference “Central Eastern Europe as a gas gateway”, which took place in Permanent Representation of Poland to the EU in Brussels. Ukrainian Prime Minister, CEO of Ukrainian biggest energy company – Naftogaz, Marshal of Polish Senate, Deputy Minister of Energy from Poland, Director General for Energy from the European Commission were among the participants. The choice of the place showed Poland’s desire to stay Ukraine’s advocate in the EU, but also big interest of Poland to stop the construction of Nord Stream 2.
Therefore, the first people from Ukraine, high officials from Poland and representatives of the EU gathered to discuss the importance of Central Eastern Europe to keep its transit status in European energy. However, how the dialogue could be full if one party was not invited? No country, which supports Nord Stream 2, was present during this discussion. Austria, France and the main winner of the project – Germany were not among the participants.
Ukrainian Prime Minister Volodymyr Groysman had emotional speech, showing his country’s unacceptance of stealing its gas transit status. Speaking about Russian guarantees for security, he stressed that no one would trust Russian guarantees any more, as the country could break any of them, as it did with Budapest Memorandum.
The same negative attitude was shown by the speaker from US representation to the EU. He confirmed American hard stance towards Russian attempt to make political influence through trade in gas. He stated that US is interested in European energy security, as it considers it to be crucial for state security.
Chief of Ukrainian biggest energy company Naftogaz, Andriy Kobolyev, highlighted that Ukrainian gas transit status is strategically important not only for Ukraine, but for the whole European gas market. According to him, transit should be kept in Ukraine. Naftogaz receives 75% of its income from transit of Russian gas to the EU, therefore company’s fight against the construction of Nord Stream 2 is understandable. Mr Kobolyev sees the EU’s support essential for Naftogaz position to be heard.
The biggest EU’s opponents of Nord Stream 2, Slovak and Polish representatives, were speaking about advantages of Ukrainian system for transit, however reminding about Ukrainian homework, like the fight against corruption, which should be done. The EU’s official representatives tried to stay neutral and as usually European Commission asked Ukraine and Russia to come to an agreement.
Although, such conferences are steps in progress for reaching some compromise, it is difficult to come to it when the agreement has already been reached by powerful geopolitical players. Although gas industry experiences challenges, like pressure from renewables and negative public awareness of gas as reliable fuel, even without becoming ‘greener’, trade in gas stays an important lever in international relations. And the ghost of discussion does not always bring positive outcomes for all of the participants.