EU MPs demand halt of Nord Stream 2 to pressure Russia
EU legislators have reacted to Russia’s arrest of blogger Alexei Navalny by passing a resolution demanding a halt to the completion of the Moscow-led Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline that carries Russian natural gas to Europe.
European Parliament members on Thursday voted overwhelmingly to block the construction of the critical pipeline for the energy-hungry continent, with 581 votes in favor, 50 against and 44 abstentions, further urging the EU to review its ties with Moscow following Navalny’s detention on charges of violating his parole.
The resolution further called on the EU to “devise a new strategy for the EU’s relations with Russia", centered on support for Western-backed societies.
However, German Chancellor Angela Merkel -- who has persistently supported the nearly completed pipeline project between Germany and Russia despite criticism by other EU members – insisted on Thursday that her view of the venture had not changed despite the Navalny case.
Nord Stream 2 is an offshore gas pipeline designed to double the capacity of the existing Nord Stream undersea gas pipeline linking Russia and Germany and to supply cheaper energy to Central European customers.
Under the agreement between Moscow and Berlin, it was to be launched in mid-2020, but the project has been delayed due to hurdles imposed by Washington.
The Thursday development came a day after former US President Donald Trump imposed new sanctions on a Russian pipe-laying vessel involved in the multinational gas pipeline project on his last day in office.
The US Treasury Department announced on Tuesday the imposition of the sanctions on the Russian pipe-laying ship “Fortuna” and its owner, KVT-RUS, under the so-called Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA).
The same US law had been used previously to target numerous Russian officials and enterprises.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said the project was under “unlawful” American pressure and that Moscow was closely monitoring developments in order to ensure the pipeline’s completion.
The EU has previously expressed reservations about joining the Washington-led sanctions on Nord Stream 2, with its foreign policy chief Josep Borrell stating that the bloc will not resist the construction of the project.
Moscow, however, has assured its partners that it intends to complete the project despite “harsh pressure on the part of Washington,” according to Peskov.
More than 90 percent of the project has been completed, but more than 100 kilometers of pipes must still be laid in an area off Denmark that requires highly-specialized construction equipment.
Kremlin slams anti-Russia moves over Navalny
Shrugging off calls by some EU member nations for imposing new sanctions over Navalny’s arrest, Peskov insisted that the blogger’s arrest was a matter for the prison service to decide, and required no special intervention from the government.
Russia has imposed sanctions against a number of European officials in a tit-for-tat move after the European Union adopted punitive measures against Moscow.