Thursday, February 17, 2022

Nord Stream 2: questions about the peculiar environmental foundation in Mecklenburg-Vorpommern

 Lawmakers of the oppositional green-party in the northern state of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern contest the official objectives of the myster curious foundation for climate and environmental protection "Stiftung Klima- und Umweltschutz MV" that was founded at the instigation of prime minister Manuela Schwesig, staunch supporter of the contentious pipeline. Anti-corruption organisation Transparency International blames the opacity of the organisation, writes WELT:


And yet he doesn't move. After the meeting with President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday in Moscow, Chancellor Olaf Scholz (SPD) was once again unable to bring himself to clearly name the controversial Nord Stream 2 Baltic Sea pipeline as a possible sanctions instrument against Russia. When asked a question, the chancellor said somewhat casually: "As far as the pipeline itself is concerned, everyone knows what's going on."

By this, Scholz means: If Russia intervenes militarily in Ukraine, Nord Stream 2 will not receive an operating license. The Chancellor does not state this clearly, among other things, because influential Social Democrats have different ideas about what is "going on" with the pipeline, also in view of Russian aggression: Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania's Prime Minister Manuela Schwesig (SPD) said at the New Year's reception of the Eastern Committee of the German economy at the end of January, when the current Ukraine crisis had long been smoldering: "I hope for a speedy, rule-of-law procedure so that the line can go into operation." It still does to this day.

Alongside former Chancellor Gerhard Schröder (SPD), the prime minister is regarded as the strongest champion of the gas pipeline. But in view of Schwesig's increasing doggedness, resistance grew. The Greens in the Schwerin state parliament have now handed the state government a comprehensive package of small inquiries that could put Schwesig and other pipeline supporters in an extremely uncomfortable position.


In addition, there is a critical report that Transparency International has recently presented to help the country for the pipeline project. So far, the Prime Minister has been extremely tight-lipped about the details of her support for Nord Stream 2. Just like the work of the “MV Climate and Environmental Protection Foundation”, whose “temporary secondary purpose is to help with Nord Stream 2”, as Schwesig’s predecessor and current CEO of the foundation, Erwin Sellering (SPD), says. So far, little has been seen of the main purpose, climate protection.

"It has been clear for a long time that Nord Stream 2 is less of use to our state of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania and more to the Russian government and the energy company Gazprom," said Green Party leader Harald Terpe, explaining the desire for clarification and the numerous questions to the state government. "A lack of transparency is being created around the pipeline that I was only used to seeing in undemocratic states throughout my life."


The opposition – before the Greens, the state CDU had already requested information on individual points – now wants to know, among other things, “what concrete steps the state government took and when to support the completion of the pipeline”. When which actors met, discussed and made decisions in connection with the natural gas pipelines.

Because there are apparently no written notes about a whole series of such meetings. In fact, it is also about the role of former Chancellor Schröder, Chairman of the Shareholders' Committee of Nord Stream AG and President of the Board of Directors of Nord Stream 2 AG. Schwesig met him several times. And this raises the question of how much influence lobbyists could have on the project and the support from the state government.


The focus, not only among the Greens, is on the climate and environmental protection foundation. But now, as part of their "economic business operations", they have, for example, purchased a pipe-laying ship for rock placement work, the "Blue Ship". To give just one example.


The endowment capital of 200,000 euros comes directly from the state government. Gazprom is adding 20 million euros – another 40 million euros are to flow into the foundation from Russia over the next few years. "My many years of experience in politics tell me: Whoever gives the money determines the purpose," says Green Party leader Terpe.

Transparency International comes to an even sharper verdict: "Even the construction of a foundation that is supposed to be dedicated to tasks oriented towards the common good, such as climate and environmental protection, but which openly serves the commercial activities of a Russian state-owned company to build a gas pipeline and circumvent international sanctions, must be done be described as an abuse of the legal form of a foundation,” says Stephan Ohme, financial expert at the anti-corruption organization.


The fact that the foundation did not enter the Russian backers in the transparency register is a violation of the Money Laundering Act. The Federal Ministry of Finance and the Federal Office of Administration have been involved in the matter.

The SPD in the Schwerin state parliament does not understand the excitement about the foundation. "Like the Baltic Sea Foundation of the Nord Stream 1 pipeline, whose money is used sustainably by the environmental actors in the country, the Foundation for Climate and Environmental Protection is also making a veritable contribution of its own to protecting nature in our country with a perspective of 60 million euros," says parliamentary group leader Julian Barlen WELT. "The fact that the business operations were making a small contribution to the completion of the pipeline for a limited period of time was transparent from the start and concluded with the completion of the pipeline."


The Greens now want to reveal how big and crucial the contribution is - and perhaps it will also become clearer why the Prime Minister and her Northeast SPD are fighting so stubbornly for Nord Stream 2. The pipeline will “provide additional income from taxes and additional work directly and indirectly with regional economic development,” says parliamentary group leader Barlen. "But the most important thing is the benefit in terms of maintaining security of supply while phasing out coal and nuclear power at the same time."

But the pipeline only provided additional jobs during construction, and that is complete. And the trade tax revenue expected at the largely automated landing station in Lubmin near Greifswald is estimated to be comparatively low. So far, Schwesig has hardly put forward such economic and financial policy reasons.


Instead, she explained several times that Nord Stream 2 is making an important contribution to supplying Germany with natural gas - and is therefore an effective instrument against a further increase in energy prices and heating costs. The motto "The more gas, the lower the price" brings her publicity successes: First, Schwesig can score with the thesis of the pipeline as a social project in the country. Secondly, it can dig the water out for the AfD, which is protesting against the energy transition, and thirdly, prevent the left-wing party, which is co-governing in Schwerin, from taking away the advocacy for “little people” from the SPD.

Factually, however, Schwesig's argument is on shaky ground, since the currently high prices for fossil fuels are not based primarily on low gas delivery volumes and, moreover, a stronger gas inflow to Germany could also be handled via the other existing pipelines.


Since there is a lack of "hard" reasons for Schwesig's Nord Stream 2 passion, quite a few in Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania suspect that she is concerned with the financial effects of the climate foundation - with the Russian money that flows into it.

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