Von der Leyen was interviewed jointly by six newspapers including the Polish daily. Among the topics discussed was the divisive 1,200-km Nord Stream 2 pipeline being built under the Baltic Sea to send Russian natural gas directly to Germany, while bypassing Poland, Ukraine and the Baltic states.
When asked if she thought Nord Stream 2 could affect relations with Russia and if the European Union should change tack on the project following a recent poisoning attack on Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny, von der Leyen replied: "For a long time, many believed that the pipeline was a purely economic venture. I am deeply convinced that it is also a highly political project …”
She added that the gas business “will not improve relations with Russia or change Russia’s attitude.”
Queried whether the EU should make an attempt to block the pipeline’s construction, von der Leyen said that business-wise the European Commission, the EU executive, had already used all its powers and the issue “should now be placed in a political context.”
Cranes load pipes for the construction of the Nord Stream 2 Baltic Sea gas pipeline onto a ship at the German port of Mukran in December. Photo: Stefan Sauer/dpa-Zentralbild/PAP
Warsaw has vehemently opposed the Nord Stream 2 project, saying it would pose a threat to Europe’s energy security by doubling Russia’s gas export capacity via the Baltic Sea.
Poland’s minister for European affairs, Konrad Szymański, warned in an opinion piece last week that Nord Stream 2, if completed, would make Europe dependent on Russia.
Polish Deputy Foreign Minister Marcin Przydacz was quoted as saying last week that the project "contradicts fundamental European values" and could in the future be used to "blackmail Europe."
Poland’s Foreign Minister Zbigniew Rau said this month he was optimistic about the chances of halting the construction of the controversial pipeline.