Building on my last blog post, this post will try to identify and explain the reasons of the supporter group in Europe for the gas pipeline Nord Stream 2 (NS2).
Supporting countries are Germany, Austria and the Netherlands. First of all it is important to recognize that for this group of countries NS2 is rather an economic issue than a foreign policy or security policy issue. Or in other words economic arguments predominate foreign policy or security arguments. In the particular case of Germany also the strong support of the Social Democratic Party plays an important role for supporting NS2.
In the following I will try to answer why these countries stress the economic part of the project more than other European countries do.
Economic arguments predominate foreign and security policy
If we take a closer look at the constructors, shareholders and investors of the project, the position of the supporting countries becomes more understandable. The constructor of NS2 is the Nord Stream 2 AG which is fully owned by the Russian company Gazprom which is majority owned by the Government of Russia. Financial Investors are as mentioned in the previous post: OMV (Austria), Uniper (Germany), Wintershall (Germany), Shell (Netherlands), and Engie (France). Alone this structure combined with the economic importance of the involved companies for the particular countries, reveals why these countries see NS2 primarily as a business venture. The new pipeline would decrease gas prices due to no longer eisting Ukrainian transition fees as well as an increasing total amount of gas. The pipeline will carry 55 billion cubic meters(1.9 trillion cubic feet) of gas a year to Germany.
This strong economic involvement through the participating companies, answers for the most part the supportive position of Germany, the Netherlands and Austria. The only exception is France which is involved with a French company but nevertheless become under the presidency of Emmanuel Macron an opponent or at least an critic of the project. But beside of the economic arguments there are especially in Germany other domestic reasons for their support for the pipeline project NS2.
Germany´s traditional “Ostpolitik” and the SPD
As I mentioned in the previous blog post there are different positions between and among the German parties. The Social-Democrats (SPD), which are part of the current government, play an very important role regarding the support of the pipeline project. For the SPD Nord Stream 2 is the logical continuation of Willy Brandt´s so called “Ostpolitik”, which implies strengthening the cooperation with Russia and restoration of both trust and good political and economic relations. An interesting side fact is that the former Germany Chancellor Gerhard Schröder (SPD) is also the chairman of the board of Nord Stream 2 AG. In German politics it is no secret that the former Chancellor Schröder who is a close friend of the Russian President Vladimir Putin, ensures the support of SPD for NS2. The agreement to build the first Nord Stream pipeline was also signed in 2005 when Schröder was chancellor. The Social Democrats and their former Chancellor Schröder turn out to be the main advocates in German politics for the pipeline project. But meanwhile an alliance between Conservatives and Greens clearly and publicly criticize the project due to both energy security concerns and the future role of Ukraine and say “ the project should be scrapped on moral and political grounds”. But Chancellor Merkel is in a difficult position because of her dependence of the support of the Social Democrats to hold the Coalition and her last chancellorship together.