Czechs alarmed by Polish moves to scrap gas link

By bne IntelliNews July 14, 2016

The Czech Republic plans talks with Poland over reports that Warsaw is ready to ditch a planned gas link between the two countries, the Czech trade and industry minister said on July 14.

Stork II is planned by Polish transmission system operator (TSO) Gaz-System and Czech peer Net4gas to add an extra interconnector between the countries. It would hand the Czechs access to the recently opened Polish LNG terminal, while Czechia is better plugged in to EU networks, in particular Germany, Slovakia and gas hubs in Austria.

The link is part of the EU's efforts to increase energy security across Central Europe to avert the leverage of Russia, a major supplier to the region. The €62.7mn Stork II is planned to offer 5bn cubic meters (cm) of cross border capacity annually. A Gaz-System statement from 2015 said the project should be up and running by 2018.

"Some ideas that Stork is no longer such a priority emerged on the Polish side, but as I understand it, that is not the official position yet. It is an internal Polish debate," Jan Mladek told Reuters. "I firmly hope that this stance will be modified, because we have European money approved there and we as the Czech Republic support this project."

The official said he would discuss the plan with Polish counterparts in September. Lidove Noviny speculates Poland might delay the project so that European Union funding expires. However, according to some suggestions, Poland has already informed the European Commission of its position.

The move is apparently connected to the differing stances of Warsaw and Prague to Nord Stream 2, the Russian-German plan to build a second large pipeline connecting themselves. The Polish government is zealous in its antipathy towards Russia, and is leading resistance to the plan, insisting it would worsen energy security acorss the region. However, its Visegrad peer has refused to join the protests; Czechia will likely play a large role in distributing gas from the project should it go forwards.

Russia is well practiced at a strategy of divide and conquer using gas as a carrot and stick. It has recently claimed that another of the Visegrad Four - Slovakia, which as the main carrier of Russian gas exports from Ukraine westwards has also fought Nord Stream 2 bitterly - is now ready to jump aboard.

However, the Visegrad states, despite their best efforts to talk up cooperation, are notorious for failing to show any semblence of unity when individual country's find their interests at odds with the group.



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