Russia offers Latvian port a slice of the Nord Stream pie

By bne IntelliNews April 21, 2017

The Latvian port of Ventspils has been asked to store and handle delivery of pipes for Nord Stream 2, the controversial Russian gas pipeline project, the chairman of the port said on April 20.

The project to add another line to the Nord Stream route, which would carry 63bn cubic metres of gas per year under the Baltic Sea directly to Germany, is fiercely opposed by several Central and Eastern European countries. They claim the project willl only raise already high dependence on Russian supplies.

The offer to Ventspils appears set to put the port and the Latvian government at odds. Some €25mn in revenue is at stake, said Aivars Lembergs, the Russia-linked oligarch who is the port's chairman, as well as mayor of Ventspils.

The timing of the apparent offer is notable. Riga is in the midst of forcing the unbundling of Russian-controlled gas monopolist Latvijas Gaze to take control of its pipelines and give iteslf greater options on supply.

The Latvian government is opposed to Nord Stream 2 on the grounds that the pipeline will give Russia extra leverage over CEE, while also circumventing the Ukrainian network and other transit countries. Riga occupies four of the eight seats on the Ventspils Port board and could block participation. However, that would be a mistake, Lembergs told a news conference, according to LETA.

The port should be compensated for lost revenue should the government prevent it taking up the opportunity, Lembergs said. He also claimed that supporting Nord Stream 2 means supporting the energy security of Germany, a key EU state and also a member of Nato. Latvia has been making efforts to boost Nato’s presence in the Baltic region as it nervously eyes what it sees as Moscow's renewed imperial ambition.

“The Poles have their interests - they do not want Germany to receive gas straight from Russia … why should Latvia pay for this?” Lembergs said.

Poland is particularly vocal opposition to Nord Stream 2, and is trying to develop its own supply routes from Qatar and Norway to reduce dependence on Russian supplies. Warsaw also wants to be able to pump gas further to the Czech Republic, Slovakia, and Ukraine.

“Russia is the supplier of gas, but the recipient is Germany - a NATO member, the heart of the European Union. In my view, to not support Nord Stream 2, and in the situation where Latvia can make money, that is, to not support Germany’s energy security, is against the treaties of NATO and the EU,” the controversial oligarch added.

 

 

 

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