What is most unpleasant in this situation, which is already not sparkling with positive and uncomfortable from all points of view, is that it turned out to be almost a complete surprise to others. Recall that the European Court on September 10 of this year suddenly granted Poland's rather routine and even somewhat hopeless lawsuit and thereby reversed the decision of the European Commission, which allowed Russian Gazprom to use one of the Nord Stream - 1 extensions, namely the OPAL gas pipeline, at full capacity.
That is, he made a decision of an obviously political nature, directed in fact simultaneously against Moscow, Berlin (here, however, with reservations) and Brussels, and in favor of Kiev and Warsaw. Where already available caps are thrown into the air and they beat either empty dishes, or even the bells: what’s their next “overpower” accompanied there, without our glass, unfortunately, you can’t take it anyway. Problems of scale, sorry.
Nevertheless, the event did take place. The event is quite unpleasant. And with him, with this event, no doubt, something will need to be decided.
What, in fact, is speech.
OPAL, one of the land extensions of Nord Stream 1, stretches from the German city of Greifswald, connecting the Russian pipeline with the entire gas transmission system of Central and Western Europe. According to experts, the decision of the European Court in the worst case for Gazprom could deprive Nord Stream-1 of about 10-12 billion cubic meters a year of export to Europe. That both for Nord Stream 1 and even more so for Gazprom itself is rather unpleasant, but far from deadly, of course. So, in particular, for Nord Stream, this means a decrease in load to about 80%, which is quite normal from the point of view of technical load.
Now, recall, the gas pipeline is loaded above design capacity.
As for Gazprom itself, it may go unnoticed for him at all: we’ll just recall the construction of the OPAL gas pipeline under the EUGAL pipeline, which is actually intended for Nord Stream 2, currently under construction. But it will also be possible to load part of the volumes on it until the long-suffering Nord Stream 2 reaches full capacity and is fully operational. And by the time Nord Stream 2 reaches its planned volumes, the current decision of the European Court will undoubtedly be that is called, demolished: the European Commission (note, not the Russian Federation) has already stated that “with a high degree of probability” (read: for sure) it will appeal. Moreover, by and large, the main beneficiary, Germany, to cancel this decision, it is enough to conduct a formal “examination of the impact of the operation of the pipeline on the energy interests of other EU member states”, the absence of which was referred to by the European Court when adopting this, it must be said at the same time funny and scandalous decision.
It’s not a fact that Germany, by the way, will really want to freeze with this (in fact, for the most North European - read: German - industrial gas cluster will be enough for the most unpleasant situations), it’s more likely the problems of the Central European partners. But there are still the interests of the German energy giants tied up in the project, and there is something to put pressure on the German authorities if necessary. Moreover, the Russian Federation will not even participate in this pressure, they will cope without it.
However, more on that below.
For the time being, we simply dryly state as proven the thesis with which this material started: technically, for Gazprom this situation is very unpleasant, but quite solvable.
Another thing is unpleasant here: Europe in this situation turns out to be a very weak and unpredictable partner just because of its structural uncertainty and partial lack of sovereignty. For no one will personally convince me that this decision in favor of Poland (which itself did not seem to expect this anymore) was not made and did not fit specially for the decisive round of negotiations on transit in the familiar EU-Russia-Ukraine triangle that opens next week. And there is no doubt who will benefit from these negotiations, which are already clearly expected to be not the easiest, if not disrupted, then at least as complicated as possible.
The combination is outwardly simple and, it would seem, impeccable.
The European Court takes a decision that is obviously vulnerable, but binding. Which, although it will most likely be demolished in the next year, to put it in legal slang, but right now, at the most crucial moment of the completion of the construction of Nord Stream 2 and negotiations on the expiring transit agreement with Ukraine, it’s just like that dinner spoon . What is most elegant at the same time - European consumers, it seems, should not suffer.
As for the current moment, Gazprom has already reserved additional OPAL capacity at the annual auction and will be able to use it quietly until January 1, 2020, this is not even discussed. And by this moment, in theory, EUGAL capacities should already be ready.
At full capacity, Nord Stream 2, even if the showdown with Denmark is not delayed, will not come out right away. Meanwhile, with the current, to put it mildly, controversial court decision, something, excuse me for the tautology, but they will decide.
But what an argument for Ukraine so that it “decisively stood its ground”!
And then it’s still simpler and more elegant.
Russia will make concessions - well, that means there was a girl, she was a fool, and she was to blame. It won’t go, and Ukraine, which feels support, will also balk - it means there will be no transit agreement, the local gas transportation system will be quickly pulled away for scrap, and Germany will calmly pick up the emerging markets, and it’s quite ready to interfere with Russian pipeline gas with American gas to calm its American partners (and not only American: Qatar and Yamal are no worse than) liquefied gas.
Moreover, speaking quite cynically, the Russian Federation, if not completely satisfied with this alignment, is quite acceptable for it. It is no coincidence that Putin at the WEF has been peddling the question of building precisely the “Forces of Siberia - 2” in China, as a part of the Altai gas pipeline, the resource base of which is precisely the Yamal fields.
And at the same WEF, Leonid Mikhelson reported on the “final decision” on investing in Arctic LNG-2, the resource base for which is also vital for Yamal’s European flows, a “relatively small amount” of $ 21 billion per couple three of the coming years.
And this, besides the obvious successes in the eastern direction, also looks like such a good hello to the western direction: guaranteed volume, guys, we will supply you, of course.
Once agreed. But in our new circumstances, in principle, we no longer have a vital interest in expanding pipelines specifically towards traditional European markets.
And this negotiating position, apart from the southern “Erdogan” gas transmission corridor, is such a trade argument that you can’t overwhelm any kind of nonsense like the European Court’s decision on the OPAL gas pipeline and jump.
There is much worse, we repeat, another.
If Europe so easily adapts even such traditional, authoritative, conservative institutions as the European Court to momentary political tasks, then this means only one thing: it is becoming very difficult to negotiate. And not out of spite, as they say, but because of institutional friability, which is so easy, as it turns out, to be manipulated in the interests of third countries.
And this is just a really alarming signal, because it raises the question: are there even any sane negotiators in Europe with whom you can at least agree on something? If even the decision of the European Commission, which is obviously advantageous primarily for the European markets, is so easily demolished by simple political and / or special manipulations, then how can one speak about something long-term in principle?
For you can negotiate with anyone (don’t believe me, study Churchill), but this “anyone” should have the opportunity and desire to fulfill the signed agreement and / or unwritten agreements at least in their own interests, which is sometimes even more important than official documents.
Does modern Europe have such opportunities and to what extent has now become an even bigger question.
And it is precisely with this that you definitely need to solve something: in the end, this is our most important trading partner and we must fight for it, and not wave our saber with a cry: “So don’t get anyone!”
Well, at a purely tactical level, Gazprom will certainly not be delighted with this judicial decision. But it certainly will not cry, and this trouble, even in the worst scenario, will survive quite calmly.
The author’s point of view may not coincide with the position of the publisher.