November 13, 2019 / 7:20 PM / 24 days ago

Germany makes legal changes to ease completion of Russian gas pipeline

BERLIN (Reuters) - Germany’s parliament on Wednesday approved changes to the law governing the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline to make it compliant with European Union regulations, removing a hurdle to completion of the Russia-led project.

The legal tweaks approved by the Bundestag lower house relate to EU rules signed off in February that stipulate import pipelines should not be owned by gas suppliers and that third parties should also be able to use them.

The 1,225-km pipeline under the Baltic Sea is fully owned by Russia’s state-owned Gazprom.

Germany sees it as a primarily commercial project that is essential to energy security. But Eastern European, Nordic and Baltic Sea countries and the United States see the pipeline as increasing EU reliance on Russia.

Denmark last month removed the last major hurdle to completion of the pipeline by giving the go-head to construction of sections under its jurisdiction.

According to its initial schedule, Nord Stream 2 should have been operational by the end of this year when an agreement on the transit of Russian gas via Ukraine, the main route for exports to Europe, expires.

The EU has urged Russia and Ukraine to reach a new agreement before Dec. 31 but there are a number of obstacles, including a pro-Russian insurgency in eastern Ukraine, and litigation between Gazprom and Ukraine energy company Naftogaz.

Germany has said Nord Stream 2 would only be launched if Gazprom also continued to transit gas through Ukraine.

Reporting by Markus Wacket; Writing by Joseph Nasr; Editing by Mark Potter

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