00:53 GMT26 January 2021
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    German companies working in Russia have unanimously rejected the new anti-Russian sanctions law adopted by the US last month, a survey by the German-Russian Chamber of Commerce (GRCC) has found.

    193 German companies with business in Russia took part in the GRCC study. Asked to assess the new sanctions, a whopping 97% of respondents said that they were "clearly negative" or "rather negative."

    Sanctions Target Nord Stream 2

    Rainer Seele, GRCC president and CEO of Austrian energy company OMV, said that the new US restrictions are directed specifically against the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline project, a joint venture between Russian gas giant Gazprom and several major European energy firms.

    "[The sanctions] are quite specifically about Nord Stream 2," Seele said. "Russian companies, together with their European partners – energy companies from Germany, Austria, the UK, France and the Netherlands, are taking part in this large European project."

    "I cannot help but get the impression that our Nord Stream 2 project will be shut down half way, so that American companies can export their more expensive liquefied gas to Europe and create jobs in the United States," the businessman added.

    According to Seele, European companies working with Gazprom on Nord Stream 2 may have to reevaluate the project's financing mechanism. "With Nord Stream 2, I assume that organizing the project's financing for the entire planned 70% will no longer be feasible. This is the impact of these sanctions. For this project, we will have to turn much more to Asian banks, as well as Russian ones," he said.

    'Like a Sword of Damocles'

    52% of the companies surveyed in the GRCC study said they were concerned that the new US sanctions could affect them. Two thirds expect a decline in revenues, 12% a significant one. 

    GRCC CEO Matthias Schepp said that one-third of respondents are still uncertain about whether the sanctions would affect their projects in Russia. "All of this is bad news," he noted. "The sanctions which have been adopted, but not yet implemented, hang over German companies like a Sword of Damocles," he noted, affecting things like investor confidence.

    "But there is good news too," Schepp added. "Even in light of these new sanctions, the German economy is not abandoning the Russian market." The official explained that nearly three-quarters of the companies surveyed plan to maintain their activities and investments in Russia.

    In addition to the energy sector, the new US restrictions are expected to affect other areas, including mechanical engineering and construction. They hamper construction projects, affect modernization projects, and make it impossible to form the common economic space envisioned under the 'Lisbon to Vladivostok' free trade area.

    Berlin Shouldn't Take This Lying Down

    Nearly three-quarters of respondents to the GRCC survey demand that the German government take action if European firms are indeed targeted by sanctions.

    Rainer Seele said at Wednesday's conference: "On behalf of all German business operating in Russia, we are calling on the German government and the European Commission to create countermeasures against US sanctions. To create safe conditions, we need to take constructive steps – both for the German economy and European economies in general; for the sake of common economic spaces of the future, and for the guaranteed energy supply of the European Union."

    Accordingly, he suggested that Moscow should refrain from further countersanctions against Europe.

    The German-Russian Chamber of Commerce represents the interests of German and Russian companies working in each other's countries; it has about 800 member companies.

    business, investment, restrictions, sanctions, Nord Stream 2, Germany, US, Russia
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