France economy

A German village seeks a future for Nord Stream 2

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Lubmin (Germany) (AFP) – Once championed by former Chancellor Angela Merkel as a purely economic project that would bring cheaper gas to Europe, the controversial €10 billion Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline was ultimately abandoned by Germany following the invasion of Europe. Ukraine by Russia.

But the small German coastal village of Lubmin, where the pipeline comes ashore, remains split over Nord Stream 2, with some harboring hopes it could still bring power to Europe one day, but maybe not Russian gas.

“I can’t imagine that such a huge and above all expensive project could turn into an industrial ruin,” Lubmin mayor Axel Vogt told AFP.

“I think there may be other solutions, if you look a bit into the future, hydrogen is a major topic. Not just here in Germany, but throughout the European Union and also in other countries outside the EU,” he said. , pointing out that it was technically possible for the pipeline to carry combustible hydrogen.

Vogt conceded, however, that it would take some time for the pipeline running under the Baltic Sea to find another life – with regulatory and legal procedures to run its course.

plagued by controversy

Nord Stream 2, owned by Russian giant Gazprom, sparked an outcry among Germany’s allies even at the planning stage several years ago.

Lubmin Mayor Axel Vogt Vogt said it would take some time for the pipeline under the Baltic Sea to find another life John MACDOUGALLAFP

The United States and in particular former Eastern Bloc EU countries have repeatedly warned against the pipeline that bypasses Ukraine and which they say will increase the country’s energy dependence. Europe vis-a-vis Russia.

Merkel’s government had stubbornly pushed ahead with the project, seeing Russian gas as necessary for Germany’s transition to a carbon-free future, and construction work completed in September 2021.

But with warnings already mounting of Russia’s impending assault on Ukraine, the fate of the pipeline was once again in the balance.

As Moscow refused to withdraw its troops from the borders with Ukraine and instead continued its invasion, Chancellor Olaf Scholz finally froze a key certification process on February 22.

A week later, compounded by a series of sanctions against Moscow from Western allies, Swiss company Nord Stream 2 filed for insolvency, laying off 106 workers.

Vogt said only a dozen employees were based at the Lubmin site, given that it was a “high-tech” operation.

Its local authorities have also not budgeted for the taxes expected for the coming years.

But he admitted that controversies over the years surrounding the pipeline have weighed on investor sentiment, leading to questions about whether it was safer to stay away from a site associated with the Nord Stream project. .

Economy and Climate Minister Robert Habeck was more strident about it, telling state television that it “would have been smarter not to build Nord Stream 2”.

“Prize of Civilization”

In the quiet seaside village of just over 2,000 residents, residents are as torn as ever.

In the sleepy seaside village of just over 2,000 people, residents are still equally torn by the pipeline
In the sleepy seaside village of just over 2,000 people, residents are still equally torn by the pipeline John MACDOUGALLAFP

Kerstin Ahrens, 60, said she was opposed to stopping the pipeline despite Vladimir Putin’s war on Ukraine, “because it’s such a waste of money”.

“It’s terrible with Russia but I don’t find it good that we stop it now,” she told AFP on the white sand beach.

“Everyone had hoped gas would be cheaper and now everything is more expensive, and there’s not a lot of money in this area,” she said.

Unlike Ahrens, another resident of the northeast region of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, Heike Schulte, said the pipeline should be stopped “simply because the dependence on Russia is too great”.

And the 66-year-old says she’s willing to shell out more if that’s the price to pay for ditching cheaper Russian energy.

“It’s the price of civilization, you have to live with it,” she said.