Nord Stream Unlikely to Get EU Cash

Nord Stream Unlikely to Get EU Cash

BRUSSELS — The European Investment Bank is unlikely to fund a controversial gas pipeline from Russia to Germany under the Baltic Sea because of opposition by Central European countries, the bank’s president said Thursday.

“There is clear opposition from several member states … to financing this project,” EIB chief Philippe Maystadt told a news conference. “We need unanimity. As long as there is this opposition, we will be unable to finance this project.”

Although the project was officially designated one of the European Union’s priority Trans-European Networks last year, Maystadt said most of the pipeline would run outside EU territory so the bank was under no obligation to finance it.

Nord Stream managing director Matthias Warnig said Wednesday that the Russian-German joint venture was seeking financing from the European Investment Bank and had held initial talks.

He and former German Chancellor Gerhard Schroder, chairman of the company’s shareholders’ committee, met two European commissioners to seek support for the project, fiercely opposed by Poland and criticized by other Baltic states.

“Of course the EIB is a very important possible financing partner but we are still in initial discussions so I can’t be concrete at the moment,” Warnig said.

The EIB is the soft-loan lending arm of the EU, which finances projects in member states and partner countries.

EIB vice-president Wolfgang Roth said last year that the bank might cover 30 percent of the project’s costs, estimated at $6 billion, but Maystadt later clarified that no decision had been made.

Poland has led vociferous hostility to the pipeline, which would bypass the former Soviet Baltic states — Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania — as well as Poland and Belarus.

A Polish minister compared it last year to the 1939 Molotov-Ribbentrop pact on the eve of World War II that led to the carving up of Poland.

Friday, February 9, 2007. Issue 3593. Page 7.

Reuters.

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