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Home BUSINESSLobbying for 2nd Baltic gas pipeline unlikely
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Fri, 11 Nov, 2016 01:10:28 AM
FTimes-Xinhua Report, Nov 11

While the first batch of steel pipes arrived a month ago in Kotka, Finland for coating with concrete, it remains unclear if the pipe line would be constructed as planned.

The controversial project has caused a political split along the shores of the Baltic Sea.

The planned gas pipe line, named Nordstream 2, is supposed to be built under the Baltic Sea, carrying natural gas from Russia to Germany. The route is similar with the existing Nordstream line, which was completed in 2011 and has been running all the time.

The new project is to be a twin pipe line system as before, with over 200,000 concrete weight coated pipes, each 12 meters long on the sea floor. Provided the plan goes well, construction is to start in 2018.

Even though the pipe line would deliver gas from Russia to Germany only, the project needs permission from several coastal countries, namely Russia, Finland, Sweden, Denmark and Germany before it can really move forward.

The project company Nordstream 2 AG said it already sent application to the Swedish government in September and was still waiting for the reply.

Unlike Finland, which has regarded the plan as a purely commercial project, Sweden has expressed caution over security concerns.

In Sweden, the country's defense forces have specifically opposed the establishment of a Nordstream hub at the port of Slite on the island of Gotland. The Swedes have said that under the current tense military situation in the Baltic region, the presence of Russian personnel in a Swedish port could be a risk.

Swedish Foreign Minister Margot Wallstrom said in September that Sweden alone can't block the project, but could try doing it via the European Union.

The international polarization around the pipeline plan increased during the summer 2016 as visiting U.S. Vice President Joe Biden warned in Stockholm against the project. He said it may increase the European Union's dependence on Russian energy.

So far, the Finnish approach to the project has differed essentially from neighboring Sweden.

Finnish Prime Minister Juha Sipila said in parliament in September the pipeline would not affect Finnish security. He stressed that Finland does not see "security problems during the construction phase" either.

There have been rarely any indications that the Finnish stand on this project would change, but the situation is far from 100 percent certainty.

Mika Lintila, the upcoming Finnish Minister for the Economy, did not rule out the possibility that Finland would reconsider.

He said he understood the caution in Sweden, but added it should not be over dramatized.

Charly Salonius-Pasternak, a senior analyst at the Finnish Center for International Affairs, told Xinhua recently that he believed Finland could well refrain from trying to influence the other countries on the issue.

While the project would probably be further discussed within the EU, and its fate could be impacted by the result of the U.S. presidential election, Salonius-Pasternak believed Finland tends to assess the project as an independent case.

In the event that the project indeed fails or gets delayed indefinitely, Finland would avoid being heavily involved.

"If the pipe line plan falters, it has not been caused by Finland," Salonius-Pasternak concluded.

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