German Chancellor Angela Merkel said today that the Nord Stream 2 pipeline cannot go ahead if Ukraine loses its importance as a transit country for gas to Europe.
“I made very clear that a Nord Stream 2 project is not possible without clarity on the future transit role of Ukraine,” she told a joint news conference in Berlin with Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, Reuters reported.
She said she delivered the same message to Russian President Vladimir Putin in a phone conversation on Monday.
That is a change in tone for the German leader, who in the past repeatedly described the contentious project as being purely commercial.
“So you can see that it is not just an economic issue but there are also political considerations,” she said.
Nord Stream 2 is meant to carry 55 billion cubic meters of gas from Russia to Germany via the Baltic Sea, doubling the capacity of the existing Nord Stream pipeline. It would also concentrate up to 80 percent of the EU’s Russian gas imports through one route.
The project has divided the EU. Poland, the Baltics and several Eastern European countries are vehemently opposed, fearing it would leave them vulnerable to Russia’s geopolitical pressure by circumventing Ukraine.
Gazprom CEO Alexei Miller said earlier this month that transit of Russian gas via Ukraine may go down to 10-15 bcm per year after Nord Stream 2 and another planned pipeline to Turkey, known as Turkish Stream, begin operations, TASS reported.
Last year, Russia sent 93.5 bcm of gas via Ukraine, according to Ukrainian news agency Unian.