Berlin and Paris bury hatchet over controversial Russian gas pipeline

Media playback is unsupported on your device                  Media caption Gas wars The problem with Nord Stream 2

Media playback is unsupported on your device Media caption Gas wars The problem with Nord Stream 2

The revised directive would apply to the Nord Stream 2 project.

"As for the EU Gas Directive, we agreed, and this became possible because Germany and France cooperated closely with each other", said the German Chancellor at a joint press conference with the President of Mali, Ibrahim Boubacar Keita.

In its current form, Nord Stream 2, fully owned by Russian state energy firm Gazprom, would not be compliant with tougher new rules foreseen for new infrastructure projects.

"France intends to support the adoption of such a directive".

"Work is continuing with our partners, especially Germany, on the amendments that could be made to this text", the French Foreign Affairs Ministry said.

National capitals have so far failed to agree on the plan, with big member states such as France, Italy and Spain unwilling to go against Berlin's opposition to the draft rules.

However, an attempt to implement new regulations mid-way through the Nord Stream 2 project are nearly certain to run into legal challenges from Russian Federation, said Katja Yafimava, a senior research fellow at Britain's Oxford Institute for Energy Studies. It is very likely to obtain permission, despite several Central European countries strongly oppose it.

European Union members have been divided on the pipeline's construction because some felt it should come under the bloc's energy rules.

Why is Germany backing the new pipeline?

It is believed that the amendments in question mainly target Nord Stream 2, funded by the Russian gas supplier Gazprom.

Nord Stream 2 is already being built, with pipe-laying in the Gulf of Finland.

Germany feared that would make the pipeline uneconomic and unviable. Germany will expand its gas terminals with liquefied gas.

Germany had counted on France, as well as Austria, Belgium, Cyprus, Greece, and the Netherlands to block it.

France's defection is also surprising, because one of the financial investors in Nord Stream 2 is Engie, a French-led multinational company. Friday's vote, put on the agenda by Romania - which now holds the rotating presidency of the EU - will not be binding, but instead move to the European Parliament for negotiation.

Moscow said on Friday the pipeline would benefit all European countries. "Any losses incurred in stopping the project will be repaid with the gain of energy security across the continent", ambassadors told German media.

On the other hand, the United States, which is itself a major gas producer, was also fuelling concerns that the project would increase Europe's dependence on Russian gas. "My answer would be no, if we diversify our sources at the same time", Merkel said.

Uniper, which has so far spent about €600 million out of the €950 million it earmarked for the project, said its assumption was that Nord Stream 2 would still be realised. Chancellor Angela Merkel, who has always been a proponent of the pipeline, responded to the Nord Stream 2 criticism on Friday. President Donald Trump's administration has been pushing against it.

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