Germany is shutting down the controversial Nord Stream 2 pipeline in light of Russia’s incursion into Ukraine, Chancellor Olaf Scholz has said.
The undersea gas pipeline, intended to bring natural gas directly from Russia to northern Germany, is owned by a subsidiary of Russian state-owned Gazprom. Berlin was previously reluctant to impose sanctions that would affect Nord Stream 2.
But at a press conference on Tuesday, Scholz said that “the situation today is fundamentally different and therefore, in light of recent events, we must also reassess this situation… also with regard to Nord Stream 2 “.
He said he had asked the German economy ministry to withdraw a binding advice from October last year that said the pipeline posed no threat to security of supply.
“It sounds technical, but it’s the necessary administrative step so that no certification of the pipeline can now take place,” Scholz added. “And without this certification, Nord Stream 2 cannot go into service.”
Shortly after, the Ministry of Economy announcement it interrupted the certification process.
It was a surprise move by Scholz, who had sometimes even avoided mentioning the pipeline by name in recent days, and came after Russian President Vladimir Putin on Monday ordered the dispatch of troops to the self-proclaimed ‘people’s republics’. from Donetsk and Luhansk in eastern Ukraine. night.
Ukraine has long described the 10 billion euro project – whose construction was completed in September but has not yet started operating – as a threat to its security. Nord Stream 2 bypasses the country, and Kiev had raised concerns that doing so would allow Russia to cut off gas transport through existing onshore pipelines, costing Ukraine billions in transit fees.
Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba welcomed the decision. “It’s a morally, politically and practically correct step in the current circumstances,” he said. noted. “True leadership means tough decisions in tough times. Germany’s decision proves that.”
Scholz, speaking at a press conference with Irish Prime Minister Micheál Martin, said Russia’s decision to recognize the separatist areas as independent was “a serious breach of international law”.
He added that the Economy Ministry – led by the Greens, who tend to have a hawkish stance towards Moscow – would draft a new report on security of supply taking into account recent developments.
“Certification cannot take place now,” he said. tweeted later, noting that while Berlin froze the project, he might get a license at a later date. Completely canceling the pipeline could leave the government vulnerable to lawsuits.
A spokesman for British Prime Minister Boris Johnson also welcomed the move. “It is certainly something that we have said both in conversations and publicly on several occasions. To be dependent on Russian hydrocarbons in this way is not beneficial for Europe.”
The decision comes as Europeans grapple with record electricity bills, largely due to a shortage of gas supply. The continent is heavily dependent on Russian gas, which accounted for more than 42% of EU imports via pipelines alone last year.
Former Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, now deputy chairman of the Russian Security Council, reacted to Scholz’s decision by point out EU dependency: “Welcome to the brave new world where Europeans will very soon be paying €2,000 for 1,000 cubic meters of natural gas!”
Prior to Scholz’s announcement, Putin had said he had no plans to cut exports to Europe.
A Nord Stream 2 spokesperson declined to comment.