The Court of Justice of the European Union (ECJ) confirmed a ruling by a lower court on Thursday that restricted the increased gas flow through the German OPAL pipeline. The ECJ ruled that the concept of â€œenergy solidarityâ€ was justified under European law and rejected Germany’s argument that energy solidarity was merely a political concept.
The OPAL pipeline runs from Northern Germany to the Czech Republic. The pipeline transports liquid natural gas from the Russian submarine pipeline Nord Stream, which runs from Viborg on the Russian Baltic coast to Greifswald, a northeast German city on the Baltic Sea. Gazprom Export, the exporting branch of the Russian national natural gas company, attempted to increase the amount of natural gas exported through Nord Stream by doubling the capacity of the pipeline. This project, called Nord Stream 2, started in its early stages in 2011 but accelerated in 2015 when Gazprom set up a joint venture with Royal Dutch Shell, E.ON and other gas companies to build the pipeline.
Poland sued the joint venture, which it believes threatened Europe’s energy security. Poland, as well as countries like Ukraine, rely heavily on tariffs and transit fees levied by Gazprom Export through the use of overland pipelines that transport gas through these countries to Western Europe. In addition, Poland claims that increased capacity in the Nord Stream system would allow Russia to cut off the necessary supplies of natural gas to Eastern European countries. Poland has diversified its own gas imports, sourcing gas from American energy companies. Nord Stream 2 was recently completed, which in turn allows OPAL to increase its capacity.
The decision of the ECJ to confirm the judgment of the lower court limits the capacity of the OPAL pipeline, citing the concept of energy solidarity. This ruling recognizes that the over-reliance on Russian energy imports poses a potential security threat to the European Union.