FRANKFURT (Reuters) - The German state of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern plans to set up a foundation to help the completion of the Nord Stream 2 (NS2) pipeline to bring Russian gas to Germany and to fend off the threat of increased U.S. sanctions that halted work last year.
The Gazprom-led $11 billion pipeline would double the existing Nord Stream 1 pipeline’s capacity and has become a focal point of Russia’s confrontation with the West.
The United States has said Europe is undermining its energy security by increasing its reliance on Russian gas, while Russia says the United States is using sanctions to block the pipeline and protect its own natural gas industry.
State premier Manuela Schwesig told reporters in Schwerin that the local coalition, made up of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservatives and Social Democrats, decided to launch a public sector climate foundation.
Similar to two foundations around Nord Stream 1, it would boost the role of renewables and gas as a bridging technology towards cleaner fuels.
It could shield the companies involved in construction and operations of the pipeline from U.S. sanctions by acquiring, holding and releasing necessary hardware in its name.
“We believe that it is right to build the pipeline,” said Schwesig, adding she hoped the sanctions would be removed.
Approval by the state parliament for 200,000 euros of public money for the foundation was expected to be obtained on Thursday. This would be topped up by 20 million euros from the NS2 consortium.
The foundation is to be headed by ex-state premier Erwin Sellering, former Member of the European Parliament Werner Kuhn and Katja Enderlein, an entrepreneur in the town of Greifswald, on an unpaid basis.
It will be far harder for the United States to target a state-backed foundation with measures such as freezing funds, than private companies as it has no interest in commercial activity beyond NS2, which is more than 90% completed.
The consortium is expected to start laying a remaining stretch in Danish waters from Jan. 15 while the final stretch in German waters was finished last month, Refinitiv Eikon data tracking movements of pipe-laying ships indicated.
($1 = 0.8107 euros)
Reporting by Vera Eckert, editing by Barbara Lewis and Emelia Sithole-Matarise
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