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Cablegate: Sweden Approves Nord Stream Pipeline

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1. Summary: On November 5, the Government of Sweden approved the
request by Nord Stream AG to lay two pipelines to transport natural
gas through international waters within Sweden's economic zone in
the Baltic Sea. The pipeline would supply Germany with natural gas
from Russia. In announcing the decision, Environment Minister
Carlgren stressed the strict environment conditions that Nord Stream
must meet and argued that Sweden had no choice under international
law but to approve the pipeline. The political opposition, however,
has been quick to criticize the decision on both environmental and
strategic grounds. Although two key Swedish government agencies that
reviewed the pipeline proposal issued opposing advice on the route,
there are currently no indications that the government's approval of
the pipeline will be appealed. End Summary.
2. In his press conference, Minister for Environment Andreas
Carlgren argued that the government had no choice under
international law but to approve the pipelines once environmental
concerns had been addressed. The government said the Law of the Sea
gives all states the right to lay pipelines in international waters
and on the continental shelf of a coastal state. The government
argued that its room to maneuver was thus more limited than when it
considers applications concerning Swedish territorial waters or
construction in Sweden. In his press release, Carlgren wrote that,
"Sweden has a long tradition of compliance with international law
and conventions. This will not be broken." Carlgren told the press
that, "No serious Swedish government would breach international law
and say no to the pipeline."

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3. Carlgren's press release went to great lengths to stress that
safeguarding the Baltic Sea environment remains a government
priority. Carlgren said the government set strict requirements for
Nord Stream, including that the location of the pipelines be
determined according to the coordinates set by the Geological Survey
of Sweden; and requiring Nord Stream have a control program for
monitoring activities, to be produced in consultation with the
Swedish agencies concerned. Moreover, permission for "muddiness,"
caused by work on the seabed in connection with laying each
pipeline, cannot exceed 15 mg/liter at the border between
Hoburgsbank and Norra Midsjobank. Other requirements include
operations taking place in accordance with the commitments made by
Nord Stream in its application and supplements, such as not
undertaking construction work in areas that are important for cod
spawning during the May-October period. Nord Stream is also
expected to take full responsibility for respecting military remains
when constructing and operating the pipelines. If applicable, Nord
Stream is responsible for sharing information and planning
phase-outs and restorations of the environment.

4. Carlgren said his government had done a tough environmental
assessment during its 23-month review of the application and
consultations with the Nord Stream consortium. Carlgren concluded
that, "There are now a number of conditions and commitments from the
company to safeguard the environment, fisheries and shipping of the
Baltic Sea. The impact on the Baltic Sea environment, according to
the national government agencies, will be extremely limited, and
only during a brief period in connection with construction. The
Government thus considers that the route applied for is compatible
with Sweden's obligations to protect and preserve the marine

5. Carlgren admitted he had been skeptical of the process
previously, "I was from the start convinced that the pipelines
wouldn't meet the environmental demands. But after a thorough
evaluation I am now of the opinion that the environmental conditions
are met." Carlgren rebuffed any accusations that Russian President
Putin might have pressured Sweden into this approval, and denied
that the timing of the decision was linked to the upcoming EU-Russia
Summit that the Swedish EU Presidency will host in Stockholm.

6. For the pipeline to become a reality, approval is required from
Denmark, Sweden, Finland, Germany and Russia. Denmark previously
accepted the pipeline, and the media reports that Finland published
its approval late on November 5.

Swedish Government Agencies Disagree on the Pipeline Route

7. Two key Swedish Government Agencies that reviewed the plans
issued opposing evaluations on the location of the proposed
pipeline. The Swedish Maritime Administration (Sjofartsverket)
expressed concern about having the pipelines too close to shipping
lanes where the boats might want to set anchor, while the Swedish
Environment Protection Agency (Naturvardsverket) wanted the
pipelines closer to shipping lanes to protect the environment.

Political Opposition

8. Swedish Green party Spokesperson Peter Eriksson sharply

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criticized the decision, saying the government "has chickened out."
He claimed the government could have refused the request by
demanding more stringent environmental standards. Eriksson also
warned that Russia will use this pipeline as a strategic weapon.

9. Eriksson is not alone in criticizing the approval on strategic
grounds. His opposition Red-Green Alliance issued a press release
saying that, "An approval of the natural gas pipeline binds Europe
to a dependence of Russian gas, which brings serious environmental
risks in a very environmentally sensitive sea area. Every new SEK
(Swedish Kronor) billion investment in natural gas delays European
investments in renewable energy. It also gives Russia new
possibilities to use energy as a tool for putting pressure on the

9. Criticism also came from within the ruling government Alliance.
The Liberal MP Carl Hamilton found the decision "exceedingly
unfortunate" and said it goes against Sweden's long-term interests
in energy and security policies. He wrote that "With a pipeline in
the Baltic Sea, Putin's Russia will no longer depend on pipelines
through Poland, the Baltic states, and Belarus for its energy
exports and thereby has the opportunity to further pressure these
former satellite states. Such Russian abuse of power on the other
side of the Baltic Sea is of course not only unpleasant in general,
but should be viewed as an indirect threat against our country."

10. Comment: Under the Constitution, it would be possible to appeal
the Swedish Government decision to the Swedish Supreme
Administrative Court (Regerings ratten). There are no indications
that any of the parties opposed to the approval plan to take this
route. End Comment.

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