BERLIN (AP) – German authorities on Friday granted permission to continue work on a submarine pipeline carrying natural gas from Russia that is the target of US sanctions threats.
The decision by the Federal Maritime and Hydrographic Agency could be appealed, meaning there could be another halt to construction of the Nord Stream 2 project, which has drawn heavy criticism from the United States, several other European countries and environmental groups.
The US government argues that the Baltic Sea pipeline will make Europe more dependent on Russian gas and hurt Europe’s energy security. The Kremlin responded by accusing Washington of trying to promote sales of its own liquefied natural gas.
The pipeline project has also been opposed by President Barack Obama’s administration, and German officials say they don’t expect significant changes in US policy when President-elect Joe Biden takes over from President Donald Trump.
German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas told reporters on Friday, however, that he expects high-level talks with the upcoming government on possible new US sanctions against companies involved in the pipeline project.
“Of course we would like to discuss this topic with our colleagues in Washington as soon as the new government takes office,” he said.
Maas added that he did not yet know whether the company involved in the pipeline construction had plans to immediately resume work following a decision by the Maritime Affairs and Hydrographic Agency.
Russian state-controlled natural gas company Gazprom has positioned a ship to resume work on a multibillion pipeline, which was suspended after a Swiss company pulled its ship out of the project amid threats of US sanctions. Since Russian ships were of a different type from Swiss ships, Germany had to issue a new authorization.
Gazprom said 6% of the pipeline, or about 150 kilometers (93 miles), remains to be completed.
Environmental activists have expressed outrage at a recent move by Germany’s Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania state government to protect companies involved in the pipeline project from US sanctions by creating a basis for “climate protection.”
“Nord Stream 2 is a geopolitical error and must stop,” said Green party MP Katrin Goering-Eckardt. “We need investments in real climate protection and renewable energy instead of a fake foundation whose chair Nord Stream 2 will appoint.”
The company, which is wholly owned by Gazprom, declined to say exactly when construction would resume.