The Third Way

In a climate mostly dominated by news about immigrants, the public opinion in Europe has easily overlooked the discussions and questions that the Nord Stream 2 project poses. It’s true: there have been many statements by officials, both within and without Europe. But, lacking visibility, the extremely complex implications that this project holds for the political, economical, strategic and social architecture of the EU were superficially debated.

It was marketed as a project that meant securing the natural gas supply to the EU but Nord Stream 2 leaves us with many questions marks. As an example: in Warsaw it is believed that this German-Russian agreement could produce loses for Poland and Ukraine. For Matteo Renzi, Prime Minister of Italy, the project is an unwanted example of the fact that Germany utilizes double standards when tending to its own interests. This refers to the opposition of German and European officials to the South Stream project which was rejected on the grounds that it violates some rules and principles of the EU. But Nord Stream 2 seems to be in the same boat.

The same position was adopted by the Hungarian Prime Minister - Viktor Orban. In an interview last year in the German publication “Focus” he characterized Germany as opportunistic when it came to defending private interests regarding the Nord Stream 2 project. He stated that the project was linked to Ukraine and South Stream and more complicated than migration. In saying this he blamed Germany’s duplicitous nature and identified Nord Stream 2 as a menace to the general and long term goals of the whole EU.

And, from the point of view of premises and implications, it stands to reason. Thus we can see that the Nord Stream 2 construction agreement was completed without a reasonable discussion with EU partners, be they neighbours, members, other companies or European institutions. This undermines the possibility of achieving set goals of the EU in the last few years, prevents the diversification of natural gas supply sources, sabotages cooperation and trust between members and also stunts the achievement and implementation in Central, Eastern and South-Eastern Europe (CESEE) of EU policies and objectives like the fact that each country should hold at least three independent natural gas supply sources. Other consequences feature the hindrance in developing a cohesion policy with Russia, independent of other particular interests of countries and companies, and last but not least this deal also prevents the completion of energy policy goals regarding Ukraine.

And this comes in a context where Ukraine did nothing more than change the gas supply route without changing the supplier. It became a country that no longer cashes in on transit fees, but pays them for imported gas. And this without getting much better prices. If recently the internal consumption of Ukraine was covered by Russian gas that traversed Ukraine and went further to Europe, in the last two years the situation has been changed. Even if the gas is still Russian, an increasing quota is coming to Ukraine from the West, through Poland, Slovakia and/or Hungary. As a consequence, Ukraine no longer cashes in on transit taxes but pays them to companies and states that own the West-East system transport route. Slovakia and its national company Eustream are just an example of beneficiaries of this situation.

Romania seems to be on the winning side. Natural gas imports made by Ukraine from Romania generate profits for the export company. Looking at the problem from a regional and European context, this new energy EU paradigm, provided by the Nord Stream 2 construction, is not at all favourable for us. One reason is that the coordination of gas fluxes on the West-East direction makes the CESEE area have a high degree of dependency to the interests of countries and companies form West Europe, a fact that we do not want. Another reason is that Nord Stream 2 blocks Romania’s attempt at positioning itself as a transit area for “The Third Way” which means gas from Central Asia as an alternative for Russian gas, apart from Norway and North Africa.

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