In a joint statement, Germany’s Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel and Austria's Chancellor Christian Kern said that Wednesday’s decision by the US Senate to slap new sanctions on Moscow over its alleged meddling in US presidential election and the Ukrainian conflict would make the European energy industry less competitive and would put thousands of jobs on the line.
“Threatening German, Austrian and other European enterprises with penalties on the US market only because they take part in the gas supply projects such as the Nord Stream 2 together with Russia or finance them, is adding an absolutely new and highly negative aspect in relations between the US and Europe,” said the joint statement released by the German Foreign Ministry.
It warned that as a result of the additional US sanctions thousands of people working in the European energy sector could lose their jobs.
Gabriel and Kern asked the US Senators to heed the advice of Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, who doubts that the additional sanctions could have any effect on Russia.
Tillerson called for a more “flexible approach” to the issue of anti-Russian sanctions and said that he would not like to see Washington “handcuffed” to the progress in the implementation of the Minsk agreements as Moscow and Kiev could eventually find some other way to resolve the crisis in Donbass.
“This is why we support the US State Department’s effort to change this bill,” Gabriel and Kern said in their joint statement.
The anti-Russian measures outlined in the amendment provide for stiff penalties on enterprises that cooperate with Russian oil and gas companies.
They also target Nord Stream 2, a pipeline that will double Russia’s ability to supply gas to Europe under the Baltic Sea. The measures could affect European energy companies, including Shell, Engie and OMV, which are financing the pipeline.
On Tuesday, Rex Tillerson tried to convince the Senators that America’s allies and partners in Europe, the Middle East and Southeast Asia were asking Washington to improve relations with Russia because the current cool in US-Russia relations was negatively impacting their own economies.
In an interview with RT, European MP Notis Marias said that the EU should not be toeing Washington’s line because Nord Stream 2 is essentially a commercial project.
Nord Stream board member Hoennig Kete said that no matter what the US Senate voted for, Europe needs more natural gas.
“We need more energy, more gas. Nord Stream is a pan-European project. Natural gas is much friendlier to nature as it produces way less pollution than coal or oil,” he emphasized.
Vladimir Dzhabarov, the first deputy head of the Federation Council’s international affairs committee, said that instead of rushing to fault the US, the Europeans should wait for the House of Representatives vote and President Trump’s reaction to the proposed amendments.
“However, if it becomes law, our response will not be long in coming,” Dzhabarov warned.
Russia is engaged in the construction of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline, which, once completed, will deliver 55 billion cubic meters of Russian natural gas per year to the European Union through the Baltic Sea into Germany.
The launch of the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline is planned for 2018. Russia’s energy giant Gazprom, Austrian energy company OMV, France's Engie, Royal Dutch Shell, Germany's Uniper and Wintershall are engaged in the project.