Estonia rejects Nord Stream’s application to survey seabed in its economic zone
The Estonian government decided yesterday to reject the application from the German-Russian gas pipeline company Nord Stream to survey the seabed inside its maritime economic zone.
"The Baltic Sea is not a suitable route for a gas pipeline", stressed Urmas Paet, the Foreign Minister of Estonia, at a press conference on Thursday.
One of the reasons for the refusal of the subsea survey application was reported to be that the results of drilling work on the continental shelf would give Russia information about Estonia's natural resources.
The Gazprom-led Nord Stream applied for a permit to carry out a survey in the Estonian territorial waters after Finland had suggested in the spring that the route be moved further south, away from the Finnish economic zone.
"Now we cannot tell whether or not the circumstances on a more southerly route are better", commented Nord Stream’s Sebastian Sass on the governmental decision.
According to Sass, an authorisation to survey the seabed along the Estonian economic zone would not have meant that the pipeline would automatically be placed there, even though the Estonians apparently thought so.
Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, and Poland intend to submit a proposal to the European Commission that the route of the planned gas pipeline should run overland. These states are offended that plans for the gas pipeline have been made behind their back.
"Solidarity is essential within the European Union, and all member states should have been involved already in the planning phase", noted Paet.
"The decision by the Estonian government is regrettable", said Martti Poutanen from Finland’s Ministry of the Environment.
In Poutanen’s view, the Finnish authorities had a valid reason to propose that the southern routing alternative should be assessed, as the deepest areas of the Gulf of Finland are mainly inside the economic zone of Estonia, where the seabed is also more even than it is in the Finnish zone.
Prime Minister Matti Vanhanen (Cenre) has estimated, according to a report by the Finnish News Agency (STT), that the possible routing of the Russian-German pipeline along the Finnish territorial waters is purely an environmental issue.
The Finnish government will make a decision on the matter on the basis of environmental impact assessments in due course.
"We regard the construction of a gas pipeline as an advantage. Central Europe needs this connection, as it will enhance energy security in Europe. The project will nevertheless have to be carried out in a way that provides a maximum level of ecological sustainability", PM Vanhanen told the media in Parliament on Thursday.
Previously in HS International Edition:
Planned Baltic Sea gas pipeline poses a political challenge to Estonia (20.9.2007)
Environmental impact of Baltic Sea pipeline greatest in building phase (15.11.2006)
Ministry of the Environment press release (15.6.2007): Experts reach agreement on study methods for Environmental Impact Assessment of Baltic Sea natural gas pipeline