Nord Stream 2 uder construction

Photo: Nord Stream 2 AG.

By Martin Chomksy

The Dutch stance on the construction of the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline was influenced by Shell, the investigative journalism platform “Follow the Money” (FTM) revealed on Saturday.

FTM found that although Dutch MPs wanted the European Union to monitor the completion and operation of the pipeline, the government argued under the influence of Shell that German side should be given as much control as possible.

The construction of Nord Stream 2, the controversial gas pipeline located in the Baltic Sea, was completed on Friday. Starting on 1 October, Russia will use it to deliver gas to Germany. This allows bypassing Ukraine and delivering gas directly to Western Europe. Shell is one of the shareholders in the project.

“The Polish government has repeatedly compared the Nord Stream gas pipelines with the Ribbentrop-Molotov Pact which divided the country between Germany and the Soviet Union, in the lead-up to the Second World War,” FTM says. The website recalls that Poland had been lobbying the European Commission since 2016 to halt the project.

As a result, the EC presented in 2017 a proposal to host its own negotiations on the project, so that Gazprom could not simultaneously own and operate the pipeline. This would break Gazprom’s monopoly and reduce Russia’s influence.

A majority of the lower house of parliament (Tweede Kamer) voted in favour of the European Commission’s proposal in 2019, but the government disregarded the MPs. FTM reveals that this happened “thanks to the sophisticated lobby of Shell.”

Prime Minister Mark Rutte’s cabinet claimed to be politically “neutral” on Nord Stream 2. However, documents unearthed by FTM show that the Netherlands lobbied for Gazprom in Brussels.

The Russian company supported Germany, rather than the European Commission,  being given as much influence as possible over Nord Stream 2 regulations.

“Ministers and top officials frequently briefed Shell on the pipeline talks,” FTM says. The website argues that the company knew about the political talks in Brussels even before the government informed MPs about them.

FTM reveals that the leaked minutes of a conversation between Shell CEO Ben van Beurden and Foreign Minister Sigrid Kaag in 2019 shows that “the government is happy that Germany has gained influence over the project.”