Ex-PM Paavo Lipponen to serve as adviser to gas pipeline builder
Lipponen sees task as that of “independent contact person”
Former Prime Minister and Speaker of Parliament Paavo Lipponen has agreed to serve as an advisor for Nord Stream, the company that is planning to set up an undersea natural gas pipeline between Germany and Russia.
Lipponen’s task will be to shuttle between Nord Stream and Finnish officials and decision-makers to expedite the implementation of the pipeline project. The pipeline will pass through the Gulf of Finland, and environmental concerns have been raised in countries that it bypasses.
Lipponen says that he has agreed on the matter in Berlin with Nord Stream CEO Matthias Warning and shareholders’ committee chairman, former Chancellor Gerhard Schröder.
Lipponen emphasises that during his one-year mission, he will not be an employee to Nord Stream, but rather an advisor serving as an independent contact person.
“Independence here means that I will operate between two sides. I can bring Finnish officials views from the management of Nord Stream, and I can relay messages from Finnish decision-makers."
Lipponen does not see anything questionable about a former prime minister taking a job promoting the controversial pipeline project. He notes that many other former politicians in Finland and elsewhere have been involved in various tasks.
“One must keep in mind that it is more than five years since I was prime minister. I can no longer be seen to be an insider in any way.”
Lipponen is also serving as a consultant for the Finnish energy company Pohjolan Voima. Lipponen estimates that his work for Nord Stream and Pohjolan Voima will take about one week of his time in a month.
Lipponen says that he will be paid “a normal international level consultant’s fee”. He will not disclose the amount, which he calls “moderate”. “Bigger fees have been seen”.
Before accepting the task, Lipponen says that he informed Prime Minister Matti Vanhanen (Centre) and other key government ministers, as well as President Tarja Halonen. They all took a positive view, which Lipponen saw as an absolute prerequisite for the mission.
“Without that, I could not succeed in a task like this.”
Equally important is that Lipponen takes a positive view of the pipeline project himself, which he considers a praiseworthy example of cooperation between an energy producer and the European Union, which needs energy. The pipeline has also been approved in the EU a long time ago as a TEN infrastructure project.
Lipponen says that he was in favour of the construction of a Baltic Sea pipeline already as Prime Minister, and that his view has not changed on the matter.
The pipeline has raised passions in the EU, and especially the European Parliament, with some Finnish MEPs backing demands that Russia be required to meet certain requirements in return for approval of the pipeline. The expectations include a greater commitment on Russia’s part to protecting the Baltic Sea environment, and even giving up its wood export tariffs.
Lipponen opposes all types of linkages with other issues, noting that there would be no end to such demands.
Lipponen feels that the pipeline should be seen by Finland as an environmental issue. While the environmental requirements need to be fulfilled according to the rules, Lipponen says that moderation is important even there.
Lipponen says that his main job at the moment is writing his memoirs, and all other activities are sidelines. He had to think about what his role should be when a big company offered him a seat on its board of directors.
“Being on the board would require an amount of work for which I do not have possibilities now. That is where I drew the line.”
Previously in HS International Edition:
Lengths of pipe for Baltic Sea gas pipeline arrive in Kotka (10.6.2008)
Estonian Foreign Minister wants Russia-Germany gas pipeline to run on land (29.10.2007)
Planned Baltic Sea gas pipeline poses a political challenge to Estonia (20.9.2007)
Sweden and Lithuania do not accept planned routing of gas pipeline (20.2.2007)
Environmental impact of Baltic Sea pipeline greatest in building phase (15.11.2006)
Nord Stream (Wikipedia)