Germany’s Olaf Scholz ‘doesn’t talk’ about Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline: ‘Unsurprising!’
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Germany’s current finance minister and vice-chancellor led the centre-left Social Democrats (SPD) to a narrow win in the Bundestag election last month. His party emerged ahead of the outgoing Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union party (CDU). Mrs Merkel did not stand for re-election at the vote, having already confirmed she would not seek a fifth consecutive term in office.
Mr Scholz immediately launched coalition talks with the third-place Greens alliance and fourth place liberal Free Democratic Party (FDP).
Prior to his election victory, the SPD had signalled its willingness to work with the Greens.
However, signs of possible tension have emerged between the prospective coalition partners over how to deal with Russia.
The Greens, led by Annalena Baerbock, have in recent days called on Mr Scholz to take a tough stance on Moscow over Nord Stream 2.
The gas pipeline that would take Russian gas from the Arctic to Germany is currently being built.
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European political expert John Callahan told Express.co.uk that the SPD and Mr Scholz’s position on Nord Stream 2 is “interesting”.
Mr Callahan is the Dean of the School of Graduate and Professional Studies at New England College in the US and has worked for the US State Department and in intelligence.
He said that “unsurprisingly the SPD doesn’t talk much about it”.
He added: “They are looking to get fuel and get it from the east, they also have not been super hard on Russia or China in contrast to the other parties.”
Mr Scholz has signalled he is happy to finish work to complete the pipeline between Russia and Germany.
However, he has faced pressure, including from the Greens, over fears that Moscow could use Nord Stream 2 to exert control over and Europe.
There are also concerns it could damage Ukraine’s economy as the pipeline will divert supplies away from the existing route through the country, which Kiev says will lose its transit fees.
Mr Scholz has sought to assure European leaders as he said Moscow had said it will not use the pipeline as a proxy weapon.
He said last month: “Ukraine will remain a transit country and that we will ensure that gas supplies to certain countries in Eastern Europe are not threatened by Russia.”
Mr Callahan suggested that Mr Scholz would likely continue Germany’s relationship with Russia as it had been under Mrs Merkel.
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He said the CDU was “more than happy to trade with the Russians, but with the caveat that that’s a two-way street”.
He added: “That if Russia does not comply on some issues, then they don’t have to take their gas.
“That’s been a stance of Germany for a long time, the gas situation for western Europe appears to be quite asymmetric with the power in Russia’s hands.
“But for a long time Germany has stated, ‘well look it goes both ways and we can also not buy it’.
“But whether that’s really true or not in the dead of winter when people are cold, that’s a different question.”
Two weeks on from the tightly contested election, negotiations to form a three-way government have resumed.
The second round of “in-depth exploratory coalition talks” between the SPD, Greens and FDP began in Berlin on Monday.
A total of 10 hours of discussions had been planned for Monday, with a further four hours pencilled in for today.
Later today, Mr Scholz is due to fly to Washington DC for a meeting of the G20 finance ministers before further talks on Friday.
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