Negative energy: Berlin’s Trumpian turn on Nord Stream 2

Written by on March 4, 2019 in Perspectives - Comments Off on Negative energy: Berlin’s Trumpian turn on Nord Stream 2

Berlin has handled the dispute over the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline with unilateralism and clumsiness worthy of US President Donald Trump.

On February 8, the EU Committee of Permanent Representatives was to vote on a proposal to tighten the rules of the common energy market – which have thus far enabled states and companies, particularly Germany and Gazprom, to circumvent EU law. Paris signalled on February 7 that it would support the proposal, igniting debate among European policy analysts and prompting hasty diplomatic interventions from Berlin. Although this eventually led to a Franco-German compromise of sorts, the incident reflected Germany’s increasing isolation on the issue.

Paris has a direct interest in Nord Stream 2 through French firm Engie’s involvement in the project. Yet the French government appears to be less worried about commercial interests than the prospect that German insistence on completing Nord Stream 2 will drive other EU member states into the hands of the Trump administration. Portraying itself as a fearsome opponent of the project, the administration likely sees Poland and other opponents of Nord Stream 2 as potential allies in a coming trade war with the European Union. For Eurosceptic-led governments such as that in Italy, the debacle over the pipeline vindicates their view of the EU as a club whose rules twist to accommodate the tactical preferences of Berlin.

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About the Author

Dr. Gustav Gressel is a Senior Policy Fellow on the Wider Europe Programme at the ECFR Berlin Office. Before joining the ECFR he worked as desk officer for international security policy and strategy in the Bureau for Security Policy in the Austrian Ministry of Defence from 2006 to 2014 and as a research fellow of the Commissioner for Strategic Studies in the Austrian MoD from 2003 to 2006. He also was committed as research fellow in the International Institute for Liberal Politics in Vienna. Before his academic career he served five years in the Austrian Armed Forces. Gustav earned a PhD in Strategic Studies at the Faculty of Military Sciences at the National University of Public Service, Budapest and a Master Degree in political science at Salzburg University.