13. Januar 2006

Environmentalists discuss Gas-Pipeline

The Coalition Clean Baltic (CCB), a Baltic Sea wide network of environmental organisations, has raised its concern about the German-Russian Megaproject of a gas-pipeline crossing the Baltic Sea. "We all need open information sources, access to EIA materials, to be sure that all environmental impacts were considered thoroughly and sufficiently," says Olga Senova, CCB-member and eco-acticvist from Russia.
But many members of the network are not ready to express a final opinion, as many clear details of the planned project are currently lacking. "We should collect the information about possible environmental threats and what it could cost to the Baltic Sea," hopes Taavi Nuum from Estonian Green Movement. What he points to seems to be partly just a hope - as information about the plans of the Russian-German consortium are not available yet. "So far, we do not have sufficient and reliable information about expected environmental impacts, and cannot make valid conclusions," says Sergey Anatskiy (Baltic Federation of Fishermen) from Russia.

Business, just big politics, ignorance, or what?
But there are also other voices to be found. Some call the whole projekt "a business issue", other "very much a political issue". Voices are mixed, and concerns regarding a possible threat to the environment come together with disappointment, that Russia and Germany may try to keep the discussion as just an internal issue. "We expect that all the HELCOM member countries, especially those which also signed the Espoo Convention, like Germany, really start the cross-border EIA." Such statement voices Valdur Lahtvee, chairman of the Coalition Clean Baltic. (Source for all CCB-statements: CCB-Newsletter)

German eco's in silence
But where are the statements of the German environmentalists? Not much has been heard or seen up to now. Could it be the effect of the new "big coalition" of conservatives and socialdemocrates in Berlin, that irritate German ecologists? Quite many of the more experienced eco-functioneers had become used to have a "Green" partner also in the German government. Some environmentalists where offered well paid jobs in ministries and other institutions during the rule of the red-green's. Suddently the political szene has turned upside down. The former coalition-partner of the Greens suddently choose a new "best friend", who does not hide a strong willingness to reintroduce atomic power stations. And Joschka Fishers "best friend", the "dear Gerd", has made his personal deal with another "best friend" in Moskow, for assuring his personal earnings. Fisher himself has disappeared from the political szene. New green leaders currently look quite like the old ones, but even older. It does not seem to be popular any more to fight for the environment very much.
What may be the background of all this political games? Will the environment be the main looser?

The pipeline from Russia to Germany will have 1200 km of its route on the bottom of the Baltic Sea. Some already have made up their minds: "Well, apart from some limited areas of old stuff from last war it will be only mudd on the ground of the Baltic Sea." Who cares?

Different interests
Other opponents step into the arena. The 24th session of the presidium of the Baltic Assembly, where law-makers of Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia and Poland came together in Estonian capital Tallinn, passed a resolution concerning the construction of the North European Gas Pipeline (NEGP) urging Russia and Germany to consider ecological and economic interests of the four states. (as for ex. Russian paper Kommersant reports).
The resolution adopted in Estonia contains an appeal to the parliaments of the countries situated in the area of the Baltic Sea and the Council of Ministers of Baltic states to pay a special attention and look into the North European gas main project for its compliance with treaties on the protection of the Baltic Sea and laws of the European Union. The four undersigning states speak up clearly: The North European Gas Pipeline disregards interests of Baltic states as well as those of Poland.

But isn't it then again just a "business issue"? Do those, who protest against the project, just want to have a "piece of the cake"?
One other expert tries to calm emotions down. Andris Piebalgs, a Latvian, holds the post as EU-commissioner for energy. "I really have no doubts ... that the companies involved will do everything necessary for protection of the environment," he was quoted by

But it seems interesting to follow what some
Russian press is expecting from the side of one of the smallest Baltic Sea States, Estonia. Three of the political fractions in Estonian parliament could initiatite a widening of Estonian sea borders to 12sm. If Finland would join the Estonian initiative - the gas-pipeline could be blocked. Once again, some question: Are governments of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania (all three strong opponents of the German-Russian pipeline) got a "green heart", or is it just for trying to get a share of the business?
May be the year 2006 will show it soon.

EIA = Environmental Impact Assessment

Baltic Assembly = was set up in 1991 as a deliberative body on the cooperation between parliaments of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. It consists of 20 people from each of the countries.