Luxembourg (dpa) - In the dispute over an expansion of Russian natural gas deliveries, Germany suffered a defeat before the European Court of Justice (ECJ).
In a judgment published on Thursday, the ECJ rejected Germany's appeal against a decision by the EU court. Specifically, it is about larger delivery volumes through the Opal pipeline, an extension of the first Nord Stream pipeline in the Baltic Sea, which has been in operation since 2011 and which transports Russian gas to Europe (Case C-848/19).
Poland had brought an action against the larger delivery quantities before the General Court of the European Union (EU-G) because they jeopardized the country's security of supply and violated the principle of energy solidarity. The court upheld the action, whereupon Germany appealed to the ECJ, which has now been rejected.
In September 2019, Poland had a decision by the EU Commission stopped at first instance, which allowed the Russian Gazprom group to make greater use of the Opal pipeline (case T-883/16). Gazprom was originally only allowed to use half the line capacity in order not to put other suppliers at a disadvantage. With a resolution from 2016, the EU Commission then allowed Gazprom to significantly increase deliveries at the request of the Federal Network Agency. The ECJ has now confirmed that this decision was rightly declared null and void by the EU-G.
In a previously published opinion of the Court of Justice, it was said that Germany “essentially asserts that energy solidarity is merely a political term and not a legal criterion”. Accordingly, no direct rights and obligations could be derived from it. The supreme court of the EU now contradicts this. Since the principle of solidarity underlies all the objectives of the Union's energy policy, it cannot be assumed that it does not produce any binding legal effects. The principle includes rights and obligations for EU countries.
Impact on Nord Stream 2?
According to Advocate General Campos Sánchez-Bordona, the judgment may also have an impact on the controversial Nord Stream 2 pipeline in the Baltic Sea. In his report he writes that it could become more difficult for Gazprom and allied companies to «benefit from a temporary exemption from the application of the Union provisions (...) to the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline (...)».
These Union provisions prescribe free and fair competition in gas flows. Gazprom's hopes for advantages in the energy market after the completion of Nord Stream 2 should be dampened accordingly. The construction of the Baltic Sea pipeline Nord Stream 2 has been criticized by parts of Europe and the USA. The pipe-laying work has been nearing completion for some time. However, there was always resistance from other countries.
In the opinion of the deputy chairman of the Green parliamentary group in the Bundestag, Oliver Krischer, the consequences of the judgment should not be underestimated. "It is an essential component that the gas transit through Ukraine is needed on a long-term basis," he said.
With Nord Stream 2, Russian gas is to be brought to Germany bypassing Ukraine. The USA and some Eastern European NATO partners fear that Europe is too dependent on Russian energy supplies.