German-Russian energy moves alarm the Czech PM
The Czech Republic is concerned by close energy ties between Germany and Russia because they may threaten Czech energy security, PM Topolanek said on November 20. Topolanek, a right-wing prime minister who took office last year, said the country was developing diplomatic activity and practical plans to diversify oil and gas supplies. “We have big concerns, and I talk about it very openly so I can say it here, from the kind of new big friendship between Berlin and Moscow,” he told a business conference.
The Czech Republic takes about 80 percent of its gas and most of its crude oil from Russia, and Topolanek’s centre-right cabinet has made energy security one of its priorities.
Relations between the pro-U.S. government and Russia have been strained since the Czechs began to contemplate a US request to build part of a U.S. missile defence shield in the country, earlier this year. The Czech Republic is hostile to the whole idea, which it sees as directed against the Russians, not rogue regimes the other side of Eurasia. Geography would appear to bear them out.
But Toplanek and President Vaclav Klaus are out-and-out Atlanticists and both markedly reserved about Russia, whom they well remember as oppressors of their country before 1989.
Russia and Germany are planning a 1,200 km (745.6 miles) pipeline under the Baltic Sea, called Nord Stream, that will take 55 billion cubic metres (bcm) of gas a year directly from Russia to Germany.
Russian gas monopoly Gazprom wants to diversify export routes away from intermediate countries such as Ukraine, Poland, Belarus, the Czech Republic and Slovakia, while Germany wants to feed its expected rise in demand for gas.
“It means in the horizon of about 15 years a total bypassing in terms of oil and gas, a change from a transit country to a target country with all the associated risks,” Topolanek said.
“This is not only a question of Nord Stream, but also of oil. There is a significant reduction of the Druzhba pipeline in the strategic plans of the Russian Federation, in the end the operation may be stopped altogether,” he said. The Druzhba takes crude oil via two branches from Russia to Belarus, Ukraine, Slovakia, the Czech Republic, Poland and Germany.
But Russia plans to build a new oil link to a terminal on the Baltic coast, which would bypass the central European transit and target countries.Topolanek said the Russian plans would lead to significant investments in diversification, but gave no details.The Czechs already take oil via the IKL pipeline from Germany and gas from Norway.
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