A specialist works on board pipe laying ship Solitaire to prepare a pipe for Nord Stream 2 in the Baltic Sea, September 13 2019. Picture: REUTERS/STINE JACOBSEN
A specialist works on board pipe laying ship Solitaire to prepare a pipe for Nord Stream 2 in the Baltic Sea, September 13 2019. Picture: REUTERS/STINE JACOBSEN

Frankfurt — The controversial Nord Stream 2 natural gas pipeline is “in the interests of many EU countries” and the bloc should not jeopardise the project over opposition to Russia’s imprisonment of Alexei Navalny, Austria Chancellor Sebastian Kurz said.  

“I welcome that Germany’s government continues to stick with Nord Stream 2,” Kurz told Welt am Sonntag in an interview published Saturday. “It’s a European project. Whoever thinks it is only in Russia’s interest is wrong.”

Nord Stream 2 is a gas pipeline being built under the Baltic Sea from Russia to the German coast. Led by Russia’s Gazprom, the project has been sanctioned by the US and it has sparked concerns that the direct link poses geopolitical risks by increasing German dependence on Russian energy. There is concern in the US and other countries that the link could give the Kremlin new leverage over Germany and other Nato allies.

This week, Russia imprisoned opposition leader Navalny for two years and eight months, drawing condemnation from Western leaders. Kurz told Welt am Sonntag that Russia should free Navalny, calling the jail sentence he received “unacceptable.”

Germany, Austria and other European countries will benefit from completion of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline, Kurz said, describing it as a “very positive project.” The EU would be in danger of weakening itself if it were to oppose the link now, Kurz was cited as saying. Still, the bloc must also protect the interests of Ukraine, which sees itself as loosing out from fewer gas flows, he said.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel and France’s President Emmanuel Macron on Friday vowed to put aside differences over the pipeline ahead of talks with US President Joe Biden, saying they will work together on a more unified European energy strategy and will speak with one voice on Nord Stream 2.

Bloomberg

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