A senior figure within one of Germany's ruling parties has said the controversial Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline with Russia should be reopened, in a sign of an emerging rift over energy supplies as winter approaches.
"We should open Nord Stream 2 as soon as possible to fill our gas storage facilities for the winter," Wolfgang Kubicki, deputy head of the FDP, told Germany’s RND news group on Friday.
Opening the pipeline would help people stay warm in the winter and protect German industry, said Mr Kubicki, whose party is the junior coalition partner to the SPD and the Greens.
Mr Kubicki's comments make him the highest-ranking politician so far to speak out in favour of restarting the pipeline and have opened him up to heavy criticism both at home and abroad.
But there is “no sound reason not to open" it, he said, as Germany is still receiving deliveries of Russian gas via Nord Stream 1.
Reduced Nord Stream 1 deliveries 'politically motivated'
The pipeline could be closed once Germany’s supplies for the winter are secured, he added.
Nord Stream 2 was a symbol of the Merkel era, during which Germany became dependent on Russian energy. Its opening was halted shortly before the invasion of Ukraine began in February.
The pipeline was meant to double the amount of Russian gas flowing directly to Germany and had been completed in 2021 but was awaiting German and EU certification.
Chancellor Olaf Scholz was lauded by Ukraine’s foreign minister for showing “true leadership” by halting the project, but Germany has since been hit hard by the energy crisis that followed the outbreak of war.
Russian gas deliveries via the Nord Stream 1 pipeline have dropped to around 20 per cent of capacity.
Russia blames technical problems, but Berlin believes the reduced deliveries are politically motivated.
Germany’s reliance on Russian gas since the start of the invasion has rankled its allies in Eastern Europe, and Mr Kubicki’s comments have reignited suspicion over Europe’s allegiance to Kyiv.
"It is unbelievable such people still exist in the EU after Russia's brutal invasion of Ukraine," commented one Polish diplomat.
In Germany, politicians from the FDP’s coalition partners also criticised Mr Kubicki’s remarks.
Nils Schmid, an SPD foreign policy expert, said: "Mr Kubicki is taking up Russian propaganda and making himself Putin's henchman.
"The problem is not that Nord Stream 2 is not operational. The problem is Putin's lack of political will to supply more gas," he told German news site t-online.
The Green party’s Sara Nanni said Mr Kubicki’s request “strengthens” the Kremlin’s “false narratives” around energy deliveries.
FDP politicians also sought to distance themselves from Mr Kubicki’s remarks.
Marie-Agnes Strack Zimmermann, who chairs the Bundestag's defence committee, said on Twitter: “There must be no support for war criminals. Nord Stream 2 is dead.”