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PIPELINE

Poland, Denmark agree Baltic Sea gas pipeline

EU partners Poland and Denmark have agreed to build a natural gas pipeline along the Baltic Sea floor to supply Poles with Norwegian gas as they seek to ease heavy dependence on Russian supplies.

Poland, Denmark agree Baltic Sea gas pipeline
Unrelated file photo. Photo: JENS BÜTTNER/Ritzau Scanpix)

Under the plan, the 900 kilometre-long Baltic Pipe project is due to be pumping gas to Poland via Danish territory by 2022 when Warsaw's contract with Russia's Gazprom is set to end.

“Today we managed to make a quantum leap towards the security and independence of Poland's energy sector,” Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said onTwitter confirming the deal on Friday.

“An investment decision was made to build the strategic Baltic Pipe gas pipeline that will enable gas to be imported from the Norwegian Shelf via Denmark,” he added, referring to the deal announced by Polish and Danish state-owned gas grid operators.

Poland's GAZ-SYSTEM SA and Danish Energinet SOV announced on Friday they had worked out a deal on the pipeline to put “into service all its elements until October 1st, 2022” with a capacity of up to 10 billion cubic meters a year.

They added that the “project already received EU financial support of 51.4 million euros from the Connecting Europe Facility (CEF)” but did not disclose an overall cost in their statement.

Earlier this month, Poland signed its second multi-decade agreement deal for US liquefied natural gas (LNG) deliveries in an effort to wean itself off its heavy reliance on Russia amid tensions with Moscow.

Poland, which currently sources about two-thirds of its gas from Kremlin-backed Russian energy giant Gazprom, is also eyeing imports from Norway and Qatar.

READ ALSO: Embattled Nord Stream 2 seeks to skirt Danish veto

NORD STREAM

Germany, EU fume at US ‘interference’ over Russian gas pipeline

Germany on Saturday accused the United States of interfering in its internal affairs, in an increasingly angry spat over Washington's decision to impose sanctions on companies involved with a major project to supply western Europe with Russian gas.

Germany, EU fume at US 'interference' over Russian gas pipeline
A file photo showing Nord Stream 2 construction. Photo: DPA

Moscow and the European Union also issued statements criticising the sanctions, a day after President Donald Trump signed off on asset freezes and visa restrictions on those involved in the Nord Stream 2 project.

US lawmakers are seeking to stymie what they regard as an increasing reliance on Russian energy in western Europe by targeting the project, which aims to double the amount of Russian natural gas reaching Germany via a pipeline under the Baltic Sea.

The sanctions target contractors working to lay pipes for Nord Stream 2 –a 10-billion-euro ($11-billion) project expected to be completed in early 2020 — and another Russian gas project, TurkStream.

Full details of the sanctions have not yet been released and US officials have 60 days to disclose the names of the companies and individuals concerned.

In the first sign that the sanctions were beginning to bite, Swiss contractor Allseas suspended its Nord Stream 2 activities while it awaited clarification from the US authorities.

However, Nord Stream 2 said in reaction to the statement from Allseas that it would continue to work until the pipeline was finished.

Although US Congress overwhelmingly backed the sanctions, there was criticism from some lawmakers of a move that in effect punishes NATO allies such as Germany.

The move brought angry reactions from Berlin, Moscow and Brussels on Saturday.

An EU spokesman said the bloc was opposed “as a matter of principle to the imposition of sanctions against European companies engaged in legal activities”.

The German government reacted most forcefully, with Chancellor AngelaMerkel's spokeswoman Ulrike Demmer saying Berlin rejected “these sorts of extra-territorial sanctions”.

“They will hit German and European companies and constitute an interference in our internal affairs,” she said.

Vice Chancellor and Finance Minister Olaf Scholz said the sanctions were an infringement of sovereignty.

However, he said there would not be a tit-for-tat reaction, telling GermanTV: “It is up to the companies involved in the construction of the pipeline to take the next decisions.”

Russian foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova accused the UnitedStates of pushing an ideology that hindered global trade, adding on her Facebook page: “Soon they will demand that we stop breathing.”

But the United States is not the only nation to question the project –Ukraine, Poland and some Baltic nations have also expressed doubts.

“Despite the involvement in the Nord Stream 2 project of companies from some EU countries, this pipeline has never been a European or EU project,” said Polish Deputy Foreign Minister Pawel Jablonski, quoted by the PAP news agency.

“Instead, it remains an instrument for the realisation of Russian economic and, potentially, military policy.”

Ukraine had worried that the new pipeline would cut it out of the gas supply business and allow Russia to ratchet up pressure.

And Prime Minister Oleksiy Honcharuk said on Twitter that he welcomed the sanctions against a “politically motivated” project.

US lawmakers had cited support of Kiev as part of their justification for imposing sanctions.

But Demmer said this rationale was “particularly incomprehensible” because Moscow and Kiev reached an agreement in principle last week that will regulate the transit of Russian gas to Ukraine from 2020.

More than 80 percent of the undersea pipeline has been completed for the project — half-financed by Russia's state-owned Gazprom, with the other half paid for by five European companies.

READ ALSO: Germany goes ahead with gas pipeline despite US protests

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