The EU’s Russia strategy ignores Germany’s Nord Stream 2 problem Stream
(Bloomberg) – The European Union’s eagerly anticipated strategy of “pushing back” Russia does not mention the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline to Germany, which has been a central dilemma for the bloc for years.
The report, requested by member states ahead of a Heads of State or Government debate scheduled for next week, reaffirms the EU’s longstanding approach to Russia, but suggests few possible solutions, despite recognizing that relations with Moscow are continuing worsen.
“Russia is the EU’s largest neighbor and remains a force to be reckoned with in Europe and around the world,” says the document, highlighting the many areas of tension with Moscow, from the use of chemical weapons against political opponents to political repression Russia’s homeland and its many operations to destabilize EU members and their eastern neighbors.
At the same time, the strategy highlights Moscow’s growing and structural weaknesses and the common challenges and interests of both sides despite fundamental differences.
The EU’s efforts to stand up to Russia have been hampered by the determination of the German government to complete a new gas connection across the Baltic Sea. The German government has insisted that Nord Stream 2 is vital to the country’s energy supply and is disconnected from political ties with the Kremlin. Nonetheless, this led to US sanctions and tensions with Washington.
EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell was reluctant when the pipeline issue was raised when the report was presented.
“Nord Stream 2 was not launched by the European Union,” he told reporters. “Nord Stream 2 is not a European Union project. It is not funded by the European Union. It’s a German project. “
The pipeline operator began testing the connection last week ahead of U.S. President Joe Biden’s talks with Russia’s Vladimir Putin in Geneva on Wednesday. The EU and the US announced a mechanism to coordinate their action against Russia when Biden was in Brussels on Tuesday.
Managing relations with Russia is “a key strategic challenge” for the EU, the report says, and reaffirms the EU’s five guiding principles on the issue:
- Implementation of the Minsk peace agreement with Ukraine
- closer ties with Russia’s former Soviet neighbors
- Strengthening the EU’s resilience to Russian threats
- selective engagement with Russia on certain issues
- Support for personal contacts
The report provides an overview of what the EU is doing in each of these areas.
A short final section entitled Action Points states that the EU will continue to take action against human rights abuses and speak out against violations of international law in Ukraine, Georgia and elsewhere. The bloc could also consider further sanctions.
Many EU member states had asked the bloc’s foreign service to include specific proposals and options in the report, according to diplomatic memos that Bloomberg saw.
(Updates with comment from the EU Foreign Affairs Representative in the seventh paragraph)
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