Germany's Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy is concerned that new US sanctions against the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline project may affect not only German and European companies, but federal agencies as well, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung reported on Friday, citing an internal ministry document.
According to FAZ, the ministry fears that the new sanctions legislation being proposed by a bipartisan group of US lawmakers will target entities providing services -such as inspections, tests or certification work necessary to operate the pipeline. Therefore, the newspaper says, it's thought that the sanctions will target the government departments engaged in administrative and technical work for Nord Stream 2's construction or operation.
"It would be something new if sanctions were to be directed against the departments of (friendly) governments or against governments directly," the internal document says, according to the newspaper. In any event, "it can be assumed that the new sanctions will significantly increase the number of German and European companies that are a potential sanctions target," the document adds.
Speaking at a press conference later Friday, Economic Affairs and Energy minister Peter Altmaier stressed that new US sanctions measures against Nord Stream 2 would be a mistake.
"Regarding the US and the subject of Nord Stream 2, I think it would make little sense to speculate on possible measures. The German government has long been of the opinion that extraterritorial sanctions are at odds with international law and do not help to advance international cooperation," Altmaier said, speaking to reporters.
Last week, Bundestag committee on energy matters chairman Klaus Ernst warned that Berlin would not sit idly by if Washington moved forward with the new sanctions measures, but consider "serious measures to protect ourselves," including new duties on US gas imports. According to the Left Party (Die Linke) lawmaker, US behaviour related to Nord Stream 2 could be characterized as an encroachment on German and European sovereignty.
Heiko Hessenkemper, an Alternative for Germany (AfD) lawmaker and another member of the committee on energy matters, called Washington's desire to levy further sanctions on the energy project constitutes a form of "economic imperialism" aimed at protecting the US fracking industry by illegal means.
Nord Stream 2 Tensions
Nord Stream 2 is a €9.5 billion natural gas pipeline project designed to be able to pump up to 55 billion cubic meters of gas per year from Russia to Germany and Western Europe via the Baltic Sea. Late last year, Washington threatened to slap sanctions on contractors working on the project, prompting a Swiss pipeline contractor to pull out of construction with just 160 km of the 1,230 km pipeline left to build.
Along with Russian gas giant Gazprom, Nord Stream 2's participants include Germany's Uniper and Wintershall, France's Engie, Austria's OMV and the UK-Dutch Royal Dutch Shell.
Russia sailed the Akademik Cherskiy pipelaying ship from the Russian Far East to the Baltic region last month, and has repeatedly promised to complete the pipeline, regardless of US pressure.
US Republican and Democratic senators introduced new sanctions legislation targeting Nordstream 2 last Thursday, with the bill facetiously entitled 'Protecting Europe's Energy Security Act'. Also last week, Bloomberg reported that the Trump administration was on board with the idea of new sanctions on the Russian-European project.