Leaders of Germany’s largest island urge Berlin to rethink Russian policy
Berlin’s policy of trying to forgo imports of Russian natural gas risks creating hardship and triggering unrest, seven mayors from the German island of Rügen wrote in a letter sent to regional and federal governments on Wednesday. They also urged the federal government to allow gas imports through the Nord Stream 2 pipeline, given the current technical difficulties with Nord Stream 1 – something Berlin strongly rejected.
In the letter to Federal Economics Minister Robert Habeck and Manuela Schwesig, Prime Minister of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, the mayors “strongly condemn” the current conflict in Ukraine, but urge the government to consider the damage its policy could cause to the German people and economy, according to the DPA news agency.
“We are of the opinion that the path taken by the federal government to disconnect from Russian energy sources is not the right one,” wrote the seven mayors. Initially drafted by leaders from Bergen, Binz and Sassnitz, the letter was later signed by four other jurisdictions on Ruegen, Germany’s largest island and a popular tourist destination.
Dropping gas imports from Russia would mean an explosion in the cost of living, leading to social instability and unrest that could spiral out of control, the mayors wrote, according to German media. Federal government calls to save energy – like taking fewer showers and forgoing hot water – “defy understanding” they added.
“As mayors of this island, we don’t want to have to accept any new restrictions,” Sassnitz city manager Frank Kracht told the Mecklenburg-Vorpommern branch of the NDR television channel.
Rejecting proposals to increase the number of wind turbines near residential areas, calling them a health hazard, mayors advocated “a general overhaul of the solution to current problems in relations with Russia.”
Among their suggestions was to obtain additional natural gas via the Nord Stream 2 pipeline. was suspended indefinitely on February 22, two days before Russia sent troops to Ukraine.
NS2 was supposed to double the volume of Russian gas exports, but was delayed by US sanctions aimed at protecting Ukraine’s gas transit revenue. Nord Stream 1, which continues to supply Germany with gas, is currently operating at only 20% capacity due to maintenance needs. Its operator, Gazprom, says several turbines at the Portovaya compressor station need to be serviced to maintain their certification. The former was suspended by Canada, citing anti-Russian sanctions over the conflict in Ukraine, until Berlin intervened to seek an exemption. NS2 does not use Siemens turbines and can be maintained regardless of sanctions.
However, Berlin refused to even consider the possibility of using NS2. Economy Minister Habeck said the pipeline could not operate without certification. He also accused Russian President Vladimir Putin of trying to undermine EU solidarity with Ukraine by driving up the price of gas.
“Putin has the gas, but we have the power” Habeck said Tuesday, calling on Germans to stand together.
Recent polls have shown widespread pessimism in German industry regarding future business prospects. Commenting on the turbine delay last week, Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock said gas shortages could lead to an insurgency.
“If we don’t get the gas turbine, we won’t get any more gas, and we won’t be able to support Ukraine at all, because then we will be busy with popular uprisings,” he added. she told the RND television channel. Baerbock hastened to add that it was perhaps “exaggerated” and insisted that most Germans supported sending arms to Ukraine.