Summary: Poland and Slovakia are the main champions of opposition towards the NS2 project, with reasons ranging from financial to energy security issues. As a response, both countries as well as the greater V4 region have started initiatives to reduce their reliance on Russian gas.
Building upon my previous post briefly highlighting the V4 opinions and positions on NS2, this post will look further into the implications that the NS2 project will have on the region.
When asked whether the V4 group has agreed on a unified approach concerning the construction of NS2, Polish Secretary of State and Chief of the Cabinet of the President, Krzysztof Szczerski replied:
Poland and Slovakia are the champions and leaders when it comes to opinions on NS2. The remaining members of the Visegrad Group have accepted our position on the matter and by not participating in NS2, they will be supporting our critical position.
As such, this post will focus on Poland and Slovakia, with a separate one on the Czech Republic and Hungary.
Poland has been outspoken in its opposition of the NS2 project, and has in turn started to look for alternative energy options.
Poland has now turned to LNG from the US, as well as signing a gas contract with Qatar, and has also announced that it plans to increase its capacity to import LNG by 50%.
In addition, the green light has been given for the Baltic Pipe project, a 900km long offshore and onshore gas pipeline that will enable the supply of natural gas from Norway through Denmark to Poland.
Reasons for opposition
Arguments from Poland for opposing the project are along the lines of the increase in Russian influence in the region that the construction of the pipeline would bring. This is related to the argument of energy security, something that Poland has been trying to ensure by reducing its reliance on Russian gas. The NS2 project, as Poland sees, is likely to increase Western Europe’s reliance on gas imported from Russia while at the same time exposing Eastern Europe to undue influence from Moscow. This is because cutting off supplies to the region would no longer affect the flow of gas into Germany and further west.
Slovakia is a major point of entry for Russian gas into the EU and Southeastern Europe. The country’s gas transit route capacity is more than 15 times higher than the domestic gas consumption. As such, the possible re-routing of gas supply from Ukraine to NS2 would place Slovakia in a position where it would stand to lose a gas transit contract purportedly worth hundreds of millions of euros.
Sloakia’s energy system is characterised by a high share of nuclear power, which accounts for 60% of domestic energy production and the largest part of the total primary energy supply. Domestic nuclear energy production helps improve energy security in Slovakia, which otherwise is dependent on large fossil fuel imports, mainly from Russia.
Energy security is still one of the major concerns in the country, and Slovakia continues to focus on gas imports and further development of its nuclear power, which has received unprecedented political support across the whole political spectrum.
Reasons for opposition
It seems that financial reasons are one point for opposition, with energy security playing a lesser role due to Slovakia’s self-reliance on nuclear power. The Slovak response has also been to shift away from its role as a transit country and strengthen its gas networks with other neighbouring countries like Austria and the Czech Republic as well.
In addition, there is also the establishment of the “Three Seas Initiative”, a forum of EU countries in Central and Eastern Europe located between the Baltic, Adriatic, and the Black Sea.
The Three Seas Initiative is made up of twelve member countries: The three Baltic states (Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia) the V4 (Poland, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary), Austria, Romania, Bulgaria, Croatia, and Slovenia.
The Three Seas Initiative aims at increasing Central European cooperation in the fields of energy security, infrastructural development, communication and transportation. The regions and the whole continent need a more North-South connection to achieve the completion of the internal market that had been so far connecting the continent along an East-West axe.
Within this initiative, there is a LNG infrastructure project in place, with ocean terminals in Poland and Croatia with a connecting pipeline in between.
Such an initiative can clearly be seen as a move towards energy diversification, away from reliance on existing pipeline networks from Russia and could also possibly spell a drift away from European unity, as a rebuke to Germany’s seemingly unilateral push for the project.