Estonian minister calls for Nord Stream alternative

Estonian Foreign Minister Urmas Paet said his country would like to see an alternative on the mainland to the Russian-backed Nord Stream natural gas pipeline be studied. “From our point of view, we are not against that there would be new pipelines from Russia to Europe, but with this concrete pipeline we still like to see that also the alternative on mainland will be researched,” Paet told New Europe alongside a foreign ministers’ conference in Astana recently. Bypassing the Baltic States, Nord Stream will carry Russian gas under the Baltic Sea to Germany when it is completed in 2011. Nord Stream is highly controversial both for environmental concerns and national security risks in some countries such as Poland and the Baltic states.

Paet said that the Nord Stream AG, owned by Russian energy monopoly Gazprom, the German Wintershall and E.ON and the Dutch Nederlandse Gasunie, did not want to investigate a real alternative overland and the Baltic pipeline could affect the fragile sea in a devastating manner.

“For us with Nord Stream there is one big problem or question mark and it is environmental one. Because actually we don’t understand why the Nord Stream company never didn’t analyse or research a real alternative and a real alternative should be on the mainland because the Baltic Sea is a very fragile sea environment. It is not a deep sea – it is maximum 80 metres — and already one-fifth of the sea is dead already,” the Estonian foreign minister said. “This construction is going to be very huge; it is more than 1000-kilometres-long and, of course, this kind of big construction in the sea, which is very fragile, has also an influence over the sea environment,” he said, adding that so far there is not yet an outcome from environment research or risk analyses for the environment.

A meeting of Gazprom’s Coordinating Committee for Environmental Protection on October 16 discussed sets of operations aimed at securing environmental safety while constructing the Nord Stream gas pipeline. It was emphasised that all the necessary measures would be taken to protect the environment, Gazprom said in a press release.

Within the Nord Stream gas pipeline construction project, investigations of the possible impact on the on the Baltic Sea ecosystem were carried out and the areas of chemical weapons dumping were inspected. The received results were considered when engineering the gas pipeline. “Given the international status of the project, the environmental impact assessment is carried out in compliance with the ESPO Convention provisions – 12 international consultations were arranged with representatives of state bodies from the affected countries,” the Gazprom press release said.

Meanwhile, Paet, who has called on the EU to seek different sources of energy, also reminded that there is a lack of connections to the rest of European market from Estonia, Lithuania and Latvia, an issue that is of great interest to Baltic States. “You have only one small link between Lithuania and Finland, but that’s it. In coming years, we need new connections, for example between Poland and Lithuania and also from Latvia or Lithuania to Sweden so that we really connect all the Baltic States with the rest of the European electricity markets,” the Estonian foreign minister told New Europe.