Brussels (Brussels Morning) Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky warned Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel that the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline represents a serious threat to his country, prompting Merkel to promise Germany would protect Ukraine’s role as a gas transit country even after the German-Russian pipeline is completed.
The two leaders met in Berlin on Monday for what was to be their last meeting before Merkel steps down following Germany’s September federal elections. Though unable to make commitments on behalf of future German governments, Merkel sought to allay some of Zelensky’s fears, telling him she is certain that future German chancellors will share her views on the matter.
The Nord Stream 2 pipeline is set to double the current flow of Russian gas passing through the Baltic Sea, to around 110 million cubic metres per year. A partnership between the Russian gas giant Gazprom and a number of European companies, the project has faced harsh criticism from the previous and current Washington administrations, as well as from Poland, the Baltic countries and Ukraine.
It is Ukraine that stands to lose the most, since, once completed, the Nord Stream 2 project could enable Russia to taper off or stop gas delivery through Ukraine’s pipelines, something the country’s fragile economy depends on for the transit fees involved. Critics also note the pipeline could enable Moscow to use gas to put political pressure on Kiev, since shutting down the gas flow to Ukraine would no longer leave EU countries without gas. That possibility would reduce or remove much of the political incentive EU leaders might have to intervene on Kiev’s behalf.
Merkel assured Zelensky on Monday that Germany takes Ukrainian concerns seriously, as she pledged to continue supporting gas transit through Ukraine even after Nord Stream 2 is completed. As far as Germany is concerned, she said, gas transit via Ukraine is an essential component of the total gas import package, which, she noted, Moscow is fully aware of.