France and Germany diverge on Nord Stream 2 sanctions
LONDON (ICIS)–Comments from French and German politicians this week indicated the two countries have different stances on the Russian Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline to Europe. Previously, when Angela Merkel was Germany’s chancellor, the two countries had shown a united position on the topic.
More in general, experts underlined a lack of unity among EU countries regarding the potential inclusion of Nord Stream 2 in sanctions that may be implemented upon further escalation at the Ukraine-Russian border.
On Monday, German chancellor Olaf Scholz met with US president Joe Biden to discuss the escalation of tensions at the Ukraine-Russia border, while French president Emmanuel Macron met with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin to address the same issue.
According to Morten Frisch, senior partner at Morten Frisch Consulting, a key takeaway from the press conference following the Macron-Putin meeting is that it has been reported Macron drifted away from the position that had been agreed among NATO allies.
In the meantime, the Scholz-Biden meeting in Washington was focused on showing unity between the US and Germany. Both leaders spoke of economic sanctions against Russia if it invades Ukraine. Biden referred specifically to putting an end to the Nord Stream 2 pipeline, while Scholz never directly mentioned the pipeline, but said that the two countries would act together in any response to Russia.
But French finance minister Bruno Le Maire disagreed with following the US position and said on French radio France Inter on Tuesday morning that Europeans have an independent position in the Ukrainian crisis and different interests to those of the US.
“The Americans won’t have to bear the same consequences of a conflict in Ukraine as the Europeans will, especially regarding energy. The launch of Nord Stream 2 is one of the key points of the negotiation and undoubtedly one of the key points to get out of this crisis with Russia,” Le Maire said.
“Let us not be carried away by the Americans into a position which would not be that of the Europeans,” he added.
Germany’s talks with the US about not ruling out any sanctions and coordinating is certainly a difference, Agata Loskot-Strachota, senior fellow at the Centre for Eastern Studies, said.
But coordination within the EU might prove difficult, with politicians of the bloc’s two leading powers taking diverging stances.
“What is certain is that the EU as an entity won’t be able to adopt a comprehensive package of sanctions against Russia without unanimity among its member states, and not only France, but other member states, such as Hungary, have already indicated that they generally oppose sanctions,” Daniel Dozsa, solicitor at central European-based international dispute resolution firm Queritius told ICIS. “Therefore, Russia’s tactic of divide and conquer seems to be working, for now.”
Sanctions taken by the EU are decided at the European Council, which is currently presided by France until July. Passing sanctions requires unanimity among EU member states, the council’s adoption procedure for sanctions shows.
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