Energy-”Hub” Germany?

Posted by John Rosenthal

Former German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder’s appointment as chairman of the supervisory board of the Gazprom-controlled North European Gas Pipeline Consortium has raised a number of eyebrows. Suggestions to the effect that the appointment reveals Schröder to be Vladimir Putin’s poodle, however, underestimate the importance of the German presence in the project and miss its strategic significance both for the German participants and Germany more generally. 49% of the consortium is, after all, controlled by the two German firms Eon and BASF. (These are not, incidentally, Germany’s “two largest energy companies”, as a NYTimes article incorrectly asserts. As measured by revenue, Eon and its rival RWE are Germany’s two largest energy companies. BASF is a traditional chemicals manufacturer, which is represented in the pipeline consortium by its subsidiary Wintershall.)

  

It is more likely that Schröder is Eon’s poodle. (Indeed, in light of his second post-Chancellorship appointment as advisor to the Swiss publisher Ringier, it would seem that he is entirely prepared to be poodle to several masters – and I insist here on sticking to the more polite of possible canine metaphors.) The operational chief of the pipeline consortium, Mattias Warnig, is also German; and at the same time as Warnig discharges his functions for the consortium, he will continue to sit on the supervisory board of Germany’s Dresdner Bank.

 
In
an article on “The Political Pipeline” [link in German] in the Saturday (10 December) edition of the Berliner Zeitung, Frank Herold alluded to the unease created in Poland and the Baltic states by this pipeline project that literally circumvents them. Herold’s suggestion for placating Germany’s easterly EU partners gives some idea of the strategic revolution in Germany’s relation with them that the pipeline project could represent.

Solutions are possible and not even so complicated. As soon as the Russian natural gas reaches Germany, it is on the European market, which, as is well known, is a common one. Nothing stands in the way of fair supply contracts between, on the one hand, Germany as the new hub, and, on the other, Poland and the Baltic states…. The flow of energy would move then, namely, no longer only from East to West, but also… from West to East.

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