Berlin (CNSNews.com) – Germany is appealing to Canada to return a sanctions-affected turbine for the Nord Stream 1 natural gas pipeline, saying that failure to do so could give Russia a pretext for shutting off the flow completely.
Economics Minister Robert Habeck urged Ottawa to return the turbine, which was sent to Canada for repairs but now cannot be sent back due to sanctions on the Russian oil and gas industry.
“I’m the first to fight for another strong E.U. sanctions package, but strong sanctions mean they must hurt Russia and Putin more than our economy,” Habeck told Bloomberg, adding that it was critical Russian President Vladimir Putin be deprived of the ability to use the turbine issue as an excuse to cut off the gas altogether.
Last month, Russian energy giant Gazprom reduced the flow of gas through the pipeline to 40 percent of its capacity, citing delays in repairing of turbines such as the one stuck in Canada.
The move was seen as retaliation for Western-led sanctions against Russia over its invasion of Ukraine, which include a drive by the E.U. to wean itself off Russian energy as quickly as possible. Habeck said at the time Gazprom’s action was politically motivated, “not a technically justifiable decision.”
Although the pipeline can operate without the absent turbine, Habeck fears that failing to return the part ahead of a scheduled annual inspection on July 11 will give Putin an excuse not to restart the gas flow afterwards – a fear also voiced this week by the head of Germany’s energy regulator.
The Canadian government has yet to respond to the German appeal.
Nord Stream 1 is currently Europe’s main supply pipeline for Russian gas. The flow through the Yamal-Europe line, which runs through Poland, fell last week, and the transit of Russian gas across Ukraine has been reduced since the invasion began.
Germany depends on Russia for 35 percent of its gas needs.
In view of the crisis and climbing energy prices, Klaus Ernst, the left-wing lawmaker who chairs the Bundestag’s energy and climate committee, called this week for the resumption of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline.
The project, which aimed to double the supply of Russian gas to Germany and the E.U., has been completed but was suspended by Germany on the eve of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Appealing for it to be made operational, Ernst told Rheinische Post that “a gas supply failure would not only seriously affect citizens, but would also have devastating consequences for industry.”
Senior members of Ernst’s Left party distanced themselves from the controversial suggestion, however.
“Klaus Ernst does not speak for the Left,” tweeted Vanessa Müller and Peter Ritter, leaders of the party in Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania state, which is an import hub for Russian gas supplies.
They said the party was committed to energy independence and that Nord Stream 2 should not be put into operation, because of the Ukraine war.
Germany, Italy, Austria, and the Netherlands all plan to re-open coal-fired plants to compensate for new gas shortages, and Germany is also working on buying liquefied natural gas from the U.S. and elsewhere.
Others in Europe are stressing the need for solidarity, which could take the form of gas sharing arrangements.
Switzerland has no gas reserves of its own, and depends entirely on deliveries from other countries, the country’s Economy Minister Guy Parmelin noted on Tuesday, voicing concern about the impact the situation in Germany will have on Switzerland.
The deputy prime minister of the Czech Republic, Marian Jurecka, said it was important for E.U. countries to “re-establish the principle of solidarity so that when such a situation arises, member-states have to share gas in order to preserve gas for households and critical infrastructure.”
The E.U. already has a solidarity mechanism that comes into effect in the event of an extreme gas crisis, with the first bilateral agreement signed between Germany and Denmark in 2020.
Germany and Austria signed a gas partnership agreement in 2021, followed by Estonia and Latvia in January of this year.
Since the invasion began, Lithuania and Latvia (on March 10), Italy and Slovenia (on April 22), and Finland and Estonia (on April 25) also concluded agreements.
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