BERLIN, January 25 (Reuters) – The new chairman of Germany’s ruling Christian Democratic Party (CDU) said on Monday he would not reconsider his support for the Nord Stream 2 pipeline to bring Russian natural gas to Europe, even though the US and Europe oppose a settlement. . .
Armin Laschet, who was elected CDU leader this month put him in the lead position to replace Angela Merkel as chancellor, urged Russia to release Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny. But when pressed on domestic energy supplies, he said “Germany decides”.
Asked if he would be ready to rethink the pipe, Laschet replied: “No.”
The pipeline, which will double the capacity of the existing Nord Stream link from Russia to Germany and through Ukraine, has met with resistance from Washington, which wants to sell its own seaborne liquefied natural gas to Europe.
Washington says Nord Stream 2 will increase Russia’s economic and political influence in the region. But Russia and Germany have long said it was a commercial project.
EU lawmakers passed a resolution on Thursday calling for the bloc to halt the settlement of Nord Stream 2 in response to Navalny’s arrest.
The consortium behind the pipeline said on Sunday that the pipeline laying vessel had started work in Danish waters ahead of the resumption of construction suspended in December 2019 following US sanctions threats.
More than 90% of the project, led by Russian gas giant Gazprom, is already complete.
Referring to his call for immediate release of Navalny, Laschet said this was a point of principle, “but you still have to look for opportunities to cooperate,” he added.
Germany and Russia, he said, had maintained academic and business ties even at the height of the Cold War.
“The Paris agreement on climate change without Russia is only half effective, so this is an area where we have to work with each other to find a good solution,” he told reporters.
Asked if Germany could be open to changing its position on Nord Stream 2 after Merkel spoke with US President Joe Biden, Laschet replied:
“We will talk in great detail about the direction of the relationship. It’s just that the question of Germany’s energy supply is ultimately a question that Germany decides, in a European context. (Written by Paul Carrel; Editing by Andrew Heavens)