EU ministers criticize a planned gas route through international waters, saying the environmental impact could be disastrous
Plans to build a gas pipeline beneath the Baltic Sea, connecting Russia and Germany, have run into strong criticism in the European Parliament, with a number of lawmakers calling for alternative overland routes to avoid potential environmental damage.
Polish centre-right MEP Marcin Libicki has drawn up a report on the controversial pipeline in response to complaints by Polish and Lithuanian environmental associations.
The report urges the EU to "use every legal means at [its] disposal to prevent the construction of the North European gas pipeline," should a risk of environmental disaster in the Baltic Sea be proven.
It also demands that a "truly independent environmental impact assessment be commissioned with the approval of all littoral states" - Estonia, Denmark, Germany, Finland, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Russia and Sweden.
Alternative routes should be analysed first, critics say, even though they say they recognise the project's contribution to meeting the EU's future energy demands.
Some 26 members of the petition committee supported the report's critical tone, while three voted against and one abstained.
The Baltic pipeline is expected to run 1,200 km from Vyborg on the Russian side of the Gulf of Finland through the largely international waters of the Baltic Sea to Griefswald on the German Baltic coast. It will bypass traditional Russian gas transit countries such as Poland and the Baltic states.
A consortium of Gazprom, BASF/Wintershall, Gasuine and E.ON/Ruhrgas is to build the pipeline, with former German chancellor Gerhard Schroeder chairing the board.
Critics say that the proposed natural gas pipeline could disturb about 80,000 tonnes of WWII munitions dumped in the Baltic Sea and endanger public health as well as plants and animals in all coastal states in the region.
But a representative of Nord Stream dismissed the report, describing it as "misleading, making a number of factually incorrect claims about the impact of the pipeline on the Baltic Sea environment".
"Nord Stream is fully committed to preserving the Baltic Sea environment, having commissioned the most comprehensive studies ever conducted of the area," Maartje van Putten, EU affairs representative for Nord Stream, was cited as saying by Reuters.
The full EU assembly is due to give its opinion on the controversial project in July.