Tag Archives: arctic region

Why Nord Stream is another Mistral deal

The Nord Stream gas pipeline will empower Russia and harm Ukraine. The EU should act.
Published in Politico on 26.10.15

The decision of some German, Austrian, British, Dutch and French energy companies to do business with Gazprom must be severely lamented. Not only is it environmentally and economically wrong, it’s a brazen-faced dismissal of the principles of the intended European Energy Union, which are based on fair competition and solidarity.

Just a few years ago, the European Commission acted decisively and forbade the same companies to build a similar pipeline in southern Europe called South Stream. Now we are facing a lack of willingness to act because of the position of some member state governments; namely, Germany, France and Britain. That kind of majority would be difficult to challenge in the European Council, but it should be challenged nonetheless. A surprisingly heavy attack on the agreement made it onto the European Parliament plenary agenda thanks to the efforts of German MEP Reinhard Bütikofer, on October 7. But a resolution hasn’t yet been reached.

Germany, Europe’s economic powerhouse and one of the EU countries most addicted to Russian gas, came under siege from MEPs representing some of the smallest member states: Luxembourg, Cyprus and Estonia. Aided by a number of MEPs from Poland, Hungary, Romania, Greece, and Italy, they reproached the indifference of Berlin, Paris and London — and that of the European Commission.

How can these actors turn a blind eye to Nord Stream’s unambiguous goal to exclude Ukraine (and consequently Poland, Slovakia and others) from gas transit markets, delivering a quick and lethal blow to the survival of Ukraine’s already fragile economy, and indeed, to Commissioner Maroš Šefčovič’s efforts to facilitate a gas deal between Ukraine and Russia?

Economic data reveals that the Nord Stream pipeline is only working at half capacity because of a drop-off in demand for Russian gas. European energy companies have buckled under pressure from Gazprom — they only own 49 percent of the shares in the endeavor. To understand why they buckled, you have to consider the promises the Russians made, which probably include lucrative Artic drilling rights. Anyone can see that Gazprom’s reserves are too low to provide more gas than they are currently. Investments in research and infrastructure have been down for years and even with the best intentions, the Russian state-monopoly wouldn’t be able to invest because of its money being carelessly and relentlessly siphoned toward provocative military action in Syria. Hence their idea to apply some German-British capital to gas production in the Arctic.

Russian posturing around the North Pole may be attractive for business leaders, but they should take a closer look at the experience of British Petroleum in Russia. Assets can be declared the property of the Kremlin overnight. And, of course, they should bear in mind what happened to Khodorkovski. There’s no economic viability in the plan whatsoever.

We believe it’s not too late to apply common sense, and to return to the laborious, but worthwhile effort, of creating the European Energy Union, based on the diversification of energy supplies, energy efficiency and the increased use of European resources — especially renewable ones. But it will take determination from the European Council. That’s why we call on President of the European Council Donald Tusk to arrange a debate on this harmful project at the next meeting of heads of states and governments.

If he doesn’t, Nord Stream might present the same danger as the French plan to sell Mistral helicopter platforms to Putin. Russian admiral Vladimir Vysotskiy said that if he had had Mistral during the 2008 war in Georgia, the Black Sea fleet could have finished its mission in 40 minutes, instead of 26 hours. Within a year and a half, Nord Stream could see the end of Ukraine as an independent state.

Indrek Tarand is a Greens/European Free Alliance MEP. He previously served as the secretary-general of the Estonian ministry of foreign affairs.

Delegation to Switzerland, Iceland and Norway and European Economic Area (SINEEA)

The European Parliament’s delegation for relations with Switzerland, Iceland, Norway, but also Faroese Islands, Greenland and Lichtenstein has evolved with the mixing of different separate delegations. First, the delegation for relations with Switzerland was established in 1981, then with Norway in 1982, and then with Iceland in 1987. The European Economic Area Joint Parliamentary Committee (EEA JPC) was established in January 1994 in order to help to contribute more to the democratic control in the fields covered by the EEA Agreements.

Today these delegations have conflated into a single one called the DEEA delegation (also known as SINEEA).

The SINEEA delegation is responsible for the EP’s relations with the Nordic Council, the Conference of Parliamentarians of the Arctic Region (CPAR) and the Baltic Sea Parliamentary Conference. The delegation has permanent seats in the latter, and is also responsible for the relations with the West Nordic Council (aforementioned Iceland, Greenland and the Faroese Islands).

DEEA meets with the EEA member states’ delegations once a year while the EEA JPC, which is composed of an equal number of members of the European Parliament and of the Parliaments of Iceland, Norway and Lichtenstein, meets twice a year.

For more information, please visit:

DEEA homepage

Iceland's EU accession

The Iceland’s EU accession negotiations are currently on. As by this accession the EU’s presence in the AC would, it is a strategically great chance to play a more active and constructive role in the Arctic region, also contributing greatly to the multilateral governance. It could also help to solve collective environmental problems and increase EU’s interest for the Arctic and for its protection on both regional and international level.

A resolution on Iceland’s accession was adopted in July plenary and therewith the EP welcomed the prospect of Iceland becoming the 28th Member State of the EU. Iceland filed its accession application in July 2009. At the same time, Parliament asked Iceland to cease all whaling which is in contradiction with EU laws and that the preservations the country has lodged with the International Whaling Commission should be dropped.

Iceland’s accession would allow the EU to play a more active role in the Arctic- region which is already of growing importance for the EU (and for the rest of the world). Iceland is part of the Schengen Area, is a NATO member country and signatory of the European Free Trade Agreement (EFTA).

Although Iceland is already cooperating closely with the EU as a signatory of the Schengen Agreements and as a member of the European Economic Area (EEA), having therefore adopted a significant part of the acquis communautaire (notably single market legislation), the state still need to substantially reform the organisation and functioning of its financial supervisory system, and the way judges, prosecutors and supreme judicial authorities are appointed.

The two major issues during the accession talks are banking and fisheries. Other policy areas that will also have to be fully negotiated with Iceland are agriculture, taxation, economic and monetary policy and external relations. One of the most challenging and sensitive issues for both Iceland and the EU member states is whaling. Whaling plays an important role in Iceland’s traditional coastal culture and Icelanders tend to perceive the accession to the EU as a great threat to their national identity.

The support of the public in Iceland has gradually decreased since the summer of 2009, and there are signs that let us believe it will decrease even more. Therefore Iceland’s authorities have been asked to start a public discussion in order to find out what are the main concerns for Icelanders regarding the membership.

One of the reasons why the public support for the accession could decrease is an amendment about whaling made in the resolution. The amendment was made by two MEPs from the Greens, Indrek Tarand and Heidi Hauttala (Finland). The amendment was adopted in the July plenary.

Commenting on the resolution, the authors said:

“This is a great result for all those who have campaigned long and hard against whaling all over the world. This resolution sends a strong signal that if Iceland is serious about membership of the European Union, it must respect international standards. We hope that Iceland will now join the rest of Europe in seeking to put an end to this inhumane practice in the rest of the world”

And they added that from now on, whales would be naming their sons Indrek and Heidi.

For more information, please read:
European Parliament: “European Parliament resolution of 7 July 2010 on Iceland’s application for membership of the European Union”
Green EFA: “Whaling: Parliament insists that Iceland cease all Whaling at EU accession”
Europa: “EU opens accession negotiations with Iceland.”
Euractiv: “EU kick-starts Iceland’s accession.”

Additional information on EU enlargement:
Europa: “EU enlargement.”
European Parliament: “EU enlargement”