The controversial Nord Stream natural gas pipeline may be a major topic when Prime Minister Donald Tusk visits Russia.
Last week Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski met his Russian counterpart, Sergey Lavrov, in Moscow to lay the groundwork for Tusk’s scheduled visit on Feb. 8.
When Sikorski returned to Poland, he suggested in interviews that Tusk will try to persuade the Russians to change their plans for Nord Stream, which would connect Viborg in Russia and Greifswald in Germany via the bottom of the Baltic Sea.
Poland strongly opposes the project because it would mean a loss of influence on the transport of natural gas from Russia to Western Europe. According to the plans of the consortium of Russian Gazprom and German BASF and E.ON, the pipe would cross Finnish, Danish and Swedish economic zones.
The three Scandinavian countries have also voiced objections to the Nord Stream project and have demanded alternative plans.
Tusk, as well as Economy Minister Waldemar Pawlak, has many times pointed out that from Warsaw’s point of view a land pipeline through Latvia, Lithuania and Poland would be a much better way to transport gas from Russia to Germany. The land project is called Amber.
In December Tusk discussed the issue with German Chancellor Angela Merkel during his visit to Berlin. No clear statements were published, with both politicians saying only that further negotiations between Poland, Russia and Germany were planned.
Nord Stream would cost from 8 bln euro up to 12 bln euro and, according to initial plans, be ready by 2011. The Amber land proposal would be much cheaper, costing an estimated 3 bln euro.
Economics may be Tusk’s main argument during talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin. Sikorski said that as the Kremlin becomes more aware of the high costs of the Baltic pipeline, it may be open to proposals from the Polish side. Poland, Latvia and Lithuania already have filed a funding plan for Amber with the European Commission.
Since the new government took over in Poland on Nov. 16, relations with Russia have improved. Moscow withdrew several limits on the import of food from Poland. It is also expected that negotiations between Brussels and the Kremlin on a new cooperation agreement will be restarted. They have been blocked by Poland for the last two years.