RIGA, April 21 (LETA) - State support for a project that is in the interest of Russia's geopolitical interests is a threat to national security and is certainly not in Latvia's economic interests, Foreign Minister Edgars Rinkevics (Unity) says.
He said that by participating in the Nord Stream 2 project, Latvian territory could be used as a cover for Russian intelligence activities on Latvian territory, and this would substantially complicate making quick decisions in matters related to national security and would hinder the development of defense infrastructure and the deployment of allied forces in the country.
The Foreign Ministry points out that the Latvian government and himself are against the Nord Stream 2 project, as state support for the project would be against the country's foreign policy principles, which are aimed at cooperation with EU and NATO neighbors in the region, with whom large-scale infrastructure and development projects are being organized together.
''Latvian permission to use its territory would cause a split among partners in the region, and would threaten these joint projects and Latvia's credibility in its foreign policy efforts within NATO and the EU. Latvia and the other Baltic countries have constantly emphasized the Nord Stream project's inconsistency with EU energy policy principles, as well as the threat this project poses to the EU as a whole,'' Rinkevics said.
Meanwhile, Rinkevics calls Ventspils Mayor Aivars Lembergs' claims that the Foreign Ministry does not wish to participate in this project because ''Poland does not want this'' as speculations.
''Neither the Foreign Ministry nor the government are lobbying the interests of another country,'' he said, adding that these comments are absurd.
As reported, the northwestern Latvian port of Ventspils and two terminals operating there, Noord Natie Ventspils Terminals and Eurohome Latvija, have received an offer to participate in the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline project by ensuring the storage and deliveries of pipes via Ventspils port, controversial Ventspils mayor and the port’s board chairman Aivars Lembergs (For Latvia and Ventspils) said at a news conference earlier this week.
According to Ventspils port’s estimates, Latvia could earn EUR 25 million in total from involvement in the project. Lembergs noted, however, that the Foreign Ministry is objecting to Latvia’s participation in Nord Stream 2.
Ventspils has been offered to receive and store the pipes meant for the gas pipeline project and then deliver them to the place where they are supposed to be laid on the seabed. The port’s current freight grounds, however, are too small to store the necessary number of pipes, but the project’s managers are offering to invest EUR 14 million in new freight grounds which would then be left to the port as a gift.
The decision on Ventspils’ involvement in the project lies with the freeport’s board, but as Lemgbergs said, four of the port’s eight board members have been delegated by ministries, and the Foreign Ministry is against Latvia’s participation in the project.
“So, they can be ordered not to support such a project. If the government vetoes the project through the freeport’s board members, I hope that Ventspils, like it was the case in Sweden, will get at least EUR 20 million in compensation,” the Ventspils mayor said. He cited unofficial reports that the Swedish port of Slite was dissuaded from participation in Nord Stream 2 in exchange for EUR 10-20 million government compensation.
“The Foreign Ministry does not want Latvia to participate in this project because of Poland’s demands… the Poles have their interests - they do not want Germany to receive gas straight from Russia. They, too, want to be included, and this wish of Poland is understandable and commendable, but why should Latvia pay for this?” Lembergs asked rhetorically, adding that he has a different opinion on the issue.
“Russia is the supplier of gas, but the recipient is Germany - a NATO member, the heart of the European Union. In my view, to not support Nord Stream 2, and in the situation where Latvia can make money, that is, to not support Germany’s energy security, is against the treaties of NATO and the EU,” Lembergs said.
LETA also reported, Russia’s gas giant Gazprom has agreed with partners from Western Europe - British and Dutch Shell group, Austrian OMV and German Uniper and Wintershall - to build a new gas pipeline under the Baltic Sea to Germany that would bypass Ukraine, Poland and the Baltic countries. The new pipeline would double the capacity of the first Nord Stream gas pipeline connecting Russia and Germany. The project should be completed by late 2019.