Sweden refuses to fast-track Baltic gas pipeline
Environmental concerns are too important to be bypassed, Sweden says.Brussels -- Sweden will not be hurried into giving its blessing to a Russian-German natural gas pipeline project under the Baltic Sea until environmental concerns have been fully addressed, a minister said Friday.
Sweden is "aware of Germany's needs for that gas ... and that it is necessary for Europe to find other ways to get gas from Russia and to get gas and energy from several sources,” Swedish Environment Minister Andreas Calgren said. "But that can in no way interfere into our legal process," he told reporters at a breakfast meeting in Brussels.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Thursday urged EU backing for three new European gas pipeline projects, including the Nord Stream pipeline in question.
Merkel said these projects were important to diversify both the sources and routes of gas supply to the European Union following a crisis between Russia and Ukraine that hit central Europe and the Balkans earlier this month.
However, the Baltic states and Poland have objected to Nord Stream. They are concerned that the major gas supply will bypass them.
Sweden's misgivings on Friday were environmental.
"Parties or companies like Nord Stream have the right to make use of the sea to build pipelines, but on the other hand there is an obligation for coastal states to make sure that they won't face unacceptable environment consequences," Calgren said. "So far Nord Stream has not presented full and sufficient quality documentation for the environmental impact."
This is a concern for the Baltic states not just Sweden, he added.
The Swedish minister said they are waiting for fresh information to come in March, after which it would take at least three months to study whether the project fills all the environmental gaps.
Construction of the pipeline could disturb heavy metals present in the sediment and chemical weapons dumped in the Baltic Sea, Sweden's Environmental Protection Agency has said.
The Nord Stream gas pipeline, which concerns nine nations, is a partnership between Russia's state-owned gas monopoly Gazprom and German giants E.On and BASF-Wintershall.
The Nord Stream consortium agreed in 2005 to build a 1,200-kilometer (740-mile) undersea pipeline from Vyborg in Russia to Greifswald in Germany. They would aim to turn on the taps by 2010 to supply energy-hungry Western Europe.
It will at the same time bypass countries such as Ukraine, Belarus and Poland, whose relations with Moscow have been strained.
The pipeline is due to be built between 2009 and 2011.