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Austria rejects calls to halt Nord Stream 2 gas link over Navalny poisoning

Highlights

Nord Stream 2 is 'economic' project: chancellor

Austria's OMV is co-financier of gas pipeline

London — Austria has rejected calls for the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline from Russia to Germany to be halted in response to the poisoning of Russian opposition politician Alexei Navalny.

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Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz said Sept. 15 the project was commercial and should not be linked to the Navalny case, adding he was in agreement on this with Austrian President Alexander van der Bellen.

"Nord Stream 2 for us is an economic project, a positive project, because we believe that it is good to have more diversification and to be able to use different routes for energy supply to Europe," Kurz said during a press conference in Vienna.

Austria's part state-owned OMV is one of five European companies that have co-financed the 55 Bcm a year Nord Stream 2 pipeline, which is almost complete with just 160 km (99 miles) left to lay in Danish waters.

OMV, France's Engie, Anglo-Dutch Shell, and Germany's Uniper and Wintershall Dea each committed Eur950 million ($1.13 billion) to the project, representing in total around 50% of the cost of the Gazprom-led project.

Kurz -- who was speaking alongside Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky -- said Austria's view on Nord Stream 2 differed from that of Ukraine, which has been strongly opposed to the pipeline since its inception.

Zelensky urged Austria to try to see the situation "from Ukraine's point of view."

Nord Stream 2 would double the capacity of the gas corridor via the Baltic Sea to Germany to 110 Bcm/year and would reduce the need for Russia to use Ukraine as a transit country for gas supply to Europe.

Critics of the project say it would concentrate too much gas supply into Europe on one route and one source.

However, backers of the projects say Nord Stream 2 is needed to bring additional gas supply security to Europe.

The poisoning has led to calls for Germany to end its support of pipeline and for the EU to take coordinated action against the project.

But with Austria coming out unequivocally in favor of the project, it seems unlikely that the EU would be able to reach any unanimous agreement on using Nord Stream 2 to punish Moscow.