At least 18 European companies have withdrawn from the Nord Stream 2 project for fear of economic retaliation by the United States. Pierluigi Mennitti's article from Berlin
At least 18 European companies have withdrawn from the Nord Stream 2 project for fear of US economic retaliation, including many from Germany. This was reported by a search by a pool of journalists from the Süddeutsche Zeitung and from the regional public television Ndr (Norddeutschland Rundfunk). The Washington sanctions therefore produce effects, although at the moment they are only on paper. After the withdrawal of the Swiss shipping company All Sea, which owned the ships that deposited pipeline pipes under the Baltic Sea, last autumn, other companies have followed suit. According to the two German media, these are mainly companies in the insurance sector, such as Munich Re, but also industrial services companies such as Bilfinger of Mannheim.
The news is also confirmed by a report by the American Foreign Ministry to Congress, viewed by the US correspondents of the German news agency Dpa. Among the other names in the insurance world that have slipped away, also the Swiss Zurich Insurance Group and the Axa insurance which is based in Paris. All out of the project to avoid the cleaver of the announced American retaliations for those who had kept their hands on the controversial gas pipeline that should double the flow of gas directly from Russia to Germany: 1230 kilometers of pipes which now lack more or less 130 to complete the 'work and get it into business. But the last missing kilometers are proving to be the most difficult.
Meanwhile, US sanctions have hit a company. It is the KVT-RUS, the maritime company to which the Russian motor ship Fortuna belongs, which is replacing the submarine positioning of the pipes in Danish waters with those of the Swiss company, and which in recent months had been restructured as needed in a port of Mecklenburg. The Russians try to circumvent the sanctions, trying to protect the company that owns Fortuna, but the tug-of-war shows how the clash remains open.
The pincer of American retaliation manages to strike even indirectly. This is the case of the Hamburg-based company Robert Krebs GmbH, a well-known name of the German Mittelstand, specializing in ship repairs. In October, it had concluded a € 26.2 million contract with a Kaliningrad-based client for anti-corrosion work related to the Nord Stream 2 works and in addition acted as a broker for other German companies. The Hamburgers believed they were safe from sanctions and could anticipate their eventual entry into force. A fight against time, ultimately lost, despite the fact that the managers of the company had avoided responding to contacts attempted by the American authorities. Fear of the sanctions of Commerzbank, the institution where Krebs' accounts are deposited, was enough to force the Hamburg-based company to withdraw.
The pressure from the Americans is widespread, Washington officials contact the companies involved directly, illustrating the risks they run. The action takes effect and it doesn't really seem destined to stop. German hopes for a negotiation with the new president Joe Biden are less concrete than a few weeks ago. Biden and Merkel virtually crossed paths in the telematic conference on security in Munich , but there are no progress on Nord Stream 2. In the report of the US Foreign Ministry to the Congress, the Süddeutsche Zeitung wrote, it is also emphasized that the German government has remained firm on the defense of the project, considering it purely economic and not political. Pressures on European companies are the answer for now. Biden is pressured by parliamentarians from both sides, who fear a collapse on the pipeline as part of the rapprochement in US-Europe (and Germany) relations.
Meanwhile, the German energy consortium Wintershall-Dea has reduced investments in Nord Stream 2, as shown by the annual data just presented. These are credits paid for 730 million euros, instead of the expected 950 million, which according to the managers of the German company are not at risk of US sanctions because they were paid before the Countering America's Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (Caatsa). There will be no further payments, then specified the CEO Mario Mehren and the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung puts forward the hypothesis that the downsizing of the investment aims to protect the main shareholder BASF from American retaliation.
Wintershall, however, remains fully in favor of completing the pipeline. Mehren disputed recent studies according to which Germany would no longer need gas in the next few years and recalled how the success of the German energy turnaround is also linked to gas, since renewable energy alone will not be sufficient to produce the necessary energy. Energy supplies from Moscow have always been safe and reliable, even at the time of the Cold War, says Mehren. Political tensions in Russia are worrying, but economic relations should be the channel through which to keep doors open that must not be closed. This is the message shared by the entire German business world, entrusted to the diplomacy of the various parties involved.
This is a machine translation from Italian language of a post published on Start Magazine at the URL https://www.startmag.it/energia/chi-scappa-e-perche-dal-gasdotto-nord-stream-2/ on Fri, 26 Feb 2021 08:17:48 +0000.