BnetzA’s action to suspend its certification of Nord Stream 2 comes against the backdrop of tensions between Russia and Europe over Belarus and Ukraine. If, in the meantime, there is a very cold winter and prices again spike, which would remind industry and consumers why they need the extra pipeline, then so much the better from the viewpoint ot Nord Stream,” Weafer argued. Weafer said the timing is undoubtedly political. She explained that BNetzA is expected to re-start the certification process once the subsidiary is established and to issue a draft certification decision within the remainder of the 4-month period available to it under law (this period is counted from September 8 up to the suspension date of November 16, and then from whatever date when the certification process is restarted), so the original deadline of January 8 may slip, potentially up to a couple of months that would be needed for establishing the German subsidiary. “Utilities say they have enough gas to work through a ‘normal’ winter but not if it is very cold and demand rises. “My explanation of this is as follows. This would be strictly in line with the amended gas directive, whose requirements on unbundling, TPA, tariffs, do not extend beyond the German section,” Yafimava explained. “To approve the project, and then send it to the EU for sign off, against such a charged political backdrop, would risk a dangerous backlash,” he said. Explaining the reasons of the suspension, Yafimava said it is not entirely clear why BNetzA has accepted a Swiss-registered Nord Stream 2 AG application for certification in the first place, if it holds the view that only a German-registered company can be certified as an operator. Katja Yafimava, a senior research fellow at the Oxford Institute for Energy Studies, told New Europe on November 17 BNetzA will eventually certify the Nord Stream 2 operator but the decision to suspend certification until a German-registered subsidiary is established suggests there will be a delay. “The leader of the Greens is opposed to the project, but the dominant political party is in favor, as is most of German industry,” he said, arguing that “the fact that the work is now fully complete and will be less environmentally damaging than ship borne (liquified natural gas) LNG should also ease the objections to the Green party leadership”. follow on twitter @energyinsider On November 15, BNetzA formally accepted Ukraine’s National Joint Stock Company Naftogaz’s application to be included in the certification process of Nord Stream 2 AG. “Importantly, the German ministry of economy and energy has already concluded that Nord Stream 2 certification will not pose danger to security of supplies, and no new assessment by the ministry is required,” Yafimava said. Unless BNetzA allows Nord Stream 2 to flow gas while certification is pending, there will be no additional Russian gas sent to Europe beyond what Russian gas monopoly Gazprom can send by using its booked or available for booking firm capacity on the existing export corridors, including Nord Stream 2, Yamal, Ukraine, Turkish Stream, thus suggesting the whole winter of high gas prices, Yafimava said, adding, “But it still remains a valid proposition that if the winter is very cold and storages are very low BNetzA may allow flows via Nord Stream 2 while certification is pending”. Yafimava pointed out that by accepting the Swiss-registered Nord Stream 2 AG application, BNetzA has effectively created for itself an option of being able to suspend the certification process at any time of its own convenience on the essentially procedural grounds. “If anything, uncertainty over reliability of transit via Belarus and a potential loss of Yamal’s transit capacity should have made Germany wary of further delaying the start of supplies via Nord Stream 2. A spokesman for Nord Stream 2 AG told New Europe on November 16 the German regulator BNetzA has publicly informed about a temporary suspension of the certification procedure due to the foundation of a Nord Stream 2 subsidiary company. BNetzA has accepted them, just as it has accepted (Polish oil and gas company) PGNiG earlier, so that in the event of any future legal action they would not be able to allege that their views have not been taken into account – and they don’t have a veto right anyway,” she said. style=”font-size:40px; line-height: 1.3em; font-weight: 800; padding:7px;”>Germany suspends Nord Stream 2 certification delaying commissioning well into 2022

By Kostis Geropoulos
Energy & Russian Affairs Editor, New Europe

LFR

NORD STREAM 2 AG

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Germany’s Federal Network Agency (BnetzA) suspended its certification of the Nord Stream 2 natural gas pipeline from Russia to Germany on November 16 which will delay the start date into the first quarter or possibly the second quarter of 2022. I also don’t think the BNetzA’s decision has anything to do with its acceptance of Naftogaz and GTSOU (Transmission System Operator of Ukraine) in the certification process. “This suggests that the certification process will only be fully completed by/in summer,” she said. Its press release seems to suggests that BNetzA may have expected that Nord Stream 2 AG will change its legal form and re-register as a German company to operate the entire Nord Stream 2 pipeline. We are not in the position to comment on details of the procedure, its possible duration and impacts on the timing of the start of the pipeline operations,” the Nord Stream 2 spokesperson said. But BNetzA has has accepted it and also confirmed that all the necessary documents were received on 8 September. “Our company undertakes this step to ensure compliance with applicable rules and regulations. Chris Weafer, co-founder of Macro-Advisory in Moscow, told New Europe on November 17 the speed at which they will pursue the review may depend either on the position taken by the new German government – pro or anti the project – and the weather. But as neither the EU nor the German law extend beyond the German territory, Nord Stream 2 AG appears to have rejected this variant and decided to establish a new German-registered subsidiary to own and operate the German section of Nord Stream 2 only. For her part, Yafimava said the BNetzA’s decision to suspend certification doesn’t have anything to do with the situation in Belarus. If the latter, then pressure will grow to approve Nord Stream 2 sooner,” Weafer said. She added that the European Commission will still have 2 months extendable by further 2 months for issuing an opinion, and BNetzA would still have another 2 months for issuing a final certification decision. “Much more sensible to wait until the current controversies in Belarus, on the Ukraine border and in Space, to either ease or, hopefully, be resolved and then to approve the project. She argued that it cannot be completely ruled out that the timing of BNetzA’s suspension decision might be political, both domestically due to the formation of the new German government and internationally due to tensions between the EU and Russia and a threat of US sanctions.

New Europe (NE): Is it still dangerous to be an investigative journalist in Slovakia or has something changed after the (Kuciak and Kusnirova) murders? NE: Security is also important? There have been many studies that are actually saying that people consider investigative journalism to be the best way to fight corruption. What do you want to ask Europe for? We never do. For us, as journalists, we have to dedicate much more of our time to explain what we need, including talking to European leaders on a regular basis. They are active in subsidies fraud. I think people will think first before killing another journalist. So far, nearly $8 million has been returned to the state budget and over 500 people have been indicted or sentenced. Interview with Pavla Holcova

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In February 2018, a young Slovak investigative journalist named Jan Kuciak and his girlfriend, Martina Kusnirova, were brutally murdered in their home in Velka Maca, east of Slovakia’s capital, Bratislava. NE: How is it important for you to be in contact with other journalists from all over Europe? They carried out the investigation even though they were under massive pressure from Slovakia’s top leaders. The couple’s deaths prompted major street protests unseen since the 1989 anti-Communist Velvet Revolution and a political crisis that led to the collapse of Slovakia’s government. It was a Slovak issue. PH: The best suggestion I can give to journalists who want to achieve this goal without risking too much is to think about cooperation. Instead, you need to start somewhere else. It caused it (the government) to collapse within a couple of weeks. PH: I believe that the investigators, for example from Europol, really did a stellar job in collecting and analyzing the data. Quite often the most important information about what’s happening in your home country can’t actually be found there. The ceremony highlighted their contribution to the defense and advancement of human rights and the rule of law. PH: We are part of a network of investigative journalists that is called The Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP). I can’t be sure of what will come next, especially for investigative journalists. Before being gunned down, Kuciak had published several articles that focused on investigating tax fraud of several businessmen with connections to top-level Slovak politicians. We may still discover new leads, new details, but we will never know the whole story. PH: There was a huge change and a huge hope because the system collapsed after more than 12 years of being unshakable. PH: Because I’m very focused on international investigations, for me it’s critical to be in touch with other journalists in other countries. We are not there yet. But still, the Italian Mafia, especially the ‘Ndrangheta (the Calabrian mafia) is present in both Slovakia and the Czech Republic. Her investigation into the brutal murder of her colleagues helped unmask the perpetrators and contributed to the downfall of the former Slovak government of Robert Fico. But, it’s still ongoing. PH: It’s important to have young journalists involved. NE: From the political point of view, do you think there was a change after the public’s reaction and the sort of ‘revolution’ that followed? We also need money to do investigations because we have a very, very limited pool of people and institutions that can be a financial resource. Right now the system and the new government are in a hurry, partly because of the pandemic situation, but partly because they are have no experience at being in charge. NE: What can Europe do to support investigative journalists? Pavla Holcova (PH): The message after the murders was clear – by killing a journalist you’re not able to kill the story that they were working on. NE: What is the best way to work without risking too much? They are present but not as visible as, for example, in Germany. Maybe a European program would be a good idea, because we can’t take money from our governments, but we can ask the European Union. For her fearless reporting, Holcova was named a 2021 Knight International Journalism Award winner, presented by the International Center for Journalists to honor outstanding reporters who have an impact on the profession. NE: Are the activities of the Italian mafia in Slovakia and the Czech Republic serious, because in other countries, like Germany, we think it is? That said, I still believe that we’ll never know the full story. They make a lot of money on subsidies, which they invest into real estate. Holcova is an investigative journalist and media founder from the Czech Republic who works across borders to expose crime and corruption at the highest levels of government. So, there is an European network. We also have a network outside of Europe, OCCRP is now global – in South America, Southeast Asia, Australia, and in the US. PH: Yes, for us, it’s really important that someone keeps an eye on us and our cases, especially so we don’t feel left alone and forgotten. I’m afraid people are losing patience with the new changes. It’s important to have new voices out there. This could be seen as engaging in politics or having an agenda, which is what we can’t do. NE: What can you say to new journalists that would like to start their careers? It’s really difficult to assess if it’s a better, safer place for journalism now or not. PH: I need to highlight that the Italian Mafia had nothing to do with the murders of Kuciak and Kusnirova. We need money to support our core operations. That’s why we have to have dedicated people who do it for us. So you are getting some results, right? NE: You were following this case quite closely. If they share this kind of information, if they cooperate with journalists from other media, they are safe because it is possible to kill a journalist, but it’s not possible to kill a network of journalists. Even if it brings risks and sadness, I think it’s important because thanks to our job, we can sleep peacefully at night because we know we don’t give up and we want to keep on fighting. PH: What is really important for us as a journalists, because we quite often feel that we are on the front line and providing information to the public, is that we have some backup. I mean, otherwise, I can’t imagine that I could ever get a better job. We stay in contact through the OCCRP Network, including in Italy, where we have contacts. A Slovak businessman ordered the killings. NE: Many people have been arrested thanks to your investigative reports. In Slovakia, these days, there’s a revolution going on that’s bringing new risks to society. Do you think that we know everything about the Kuciak-Kusnirova case, or is there still much more to be found in the shadows? Marcek claimed he was hired by an associate of an allegedly mafia-linked local tycoon to kill both Kuciak and Kusnirova. You know, sometimes journalists believe that they need to keep all the information to themselves. New Europe spoke with investigative journalist Pavla Holcova following a commemoration for Kuciak and Kusnirova that was organized by Italy’s University of Padova. style=”font-size:40px; line-height: 1.3em; font-weight: 800; padding:7px;”>The power of investigative journalism

By Federico Grandesso
Italian Editor, Journalist

A candlelight vigil for Kuciak and Kusnirova shortly after their murder. The change was very visible and tangible. That was because of the gravity of the case. So, yes, investigative journalism has had a real and tangible impact. We are still in some kind of consolidation phase of society. A former soldier, Miroslav Marcek, pled guilty to shooting Kuciak and Kusnirova and was sentenced to 23 years in prison in April 2020.