Resistance to the construction of the Nord Stream 2 Baltic Sea pipeline is increasing. The Polish consumer protection authority has now ordered Russian gas giant Gazprom to pay a $ 1 billion fine.

Polish competition authorities have fined Russian energy company Gazprom $ 1 billion for the controversial Nord Stream 2 pipeline in the Baltic Sea. Gazprom would have to pay a record fine of 29 billion zlotys (the equivalent of about 6.45 billion euros), Poland’s Competition and Consumer Protection Authority (Uokik) announced Wednesday.

Five other companies involved in the pipeline project are also expected to pay EUR 52 million, including the German companies Uniper and Wintershall. The British-Dutch Shell group, the French group Engie and OMV from Austria are also affected.

Gazprom’s stock price fell 1.4 percent after the fine was announced. The group announced it would take action against the Polish decision. Above all, the high amount is “unmatched”.

Poland was against the pipeline from the start

Uokik had already warned in 2016 that the antitrust watchdog thought Nord Stream 2 could influence competition and refused to give the project company permission. In 2018, the Polish competition authority started antitrust proceedings.

Nord Stream 2 is intended to significantly increase the potential for Russian gas supplies to Germany, but is controversial internationally. Critics fear the pipeline could weaken the strategic and economic importance of alternative pipelines and traditional transit countries – including Poland and Ukraine. The government in Warsaw was therefore opposed to the new pipeline from the outset, as were the governments of Ukraine and the Baltic states.

Margrethe Vestager, EU competition commissioner, said in Brussels that her authority was not involved in the Polish decision. Vestager also indicated that she also considers the fine to be relatively high. This is well above the average fine range of four to six percent of group turnover.

US threat of sanctions prevents further construction

Construction of the 1,230 km gas pipeline is currently on hold because the companies involved are threatened with sanctions by the US. US President Donald Trump is one of the fierce critics. He accuses Germany of making itself dependent on Russian gas. In contrast, proponents of the pipeline argue that it increases energy security in Europe and ensures low energy prices, even when compared to the more expensive US liquid gas.

The poison attack on Russian opposition politician Alexei Navalny recently sparked additional discussions about the pipeline. Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said on Thursday that the case of the poisoned Kremlin critic cannot be separated from the pipeline project.

“Reckless pressure”

The Russian ambassador to Germany, Sergei Netschajew, expressed in the “Neue Osnabrücker Zeitung” his belief that the pipeline would be ready. It is “an international economic project that responds to the interests of Germany and other European countries”, he emphasized. Nechayev accused the US of applying “relentless pressure” for self-interest.

The German AfD called on the federal government to hold on to the project. This is important “for our energy security and for greater international understanding,” said Group Chairman Leif-Erik Holm. He criticized the fact that the other parliamentary groups did not support an AfD initiative in the Bundestag economic committee to commit to Nord Stream 2.

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