Dutch Caribbean Caught Up in ConocoPhillips-Venezuela Oil Dispute

View of Willemstad, Curaçao, November 21, 2012
View of Willemstad, Curaçao, November 21, 2012 (David Kirsch)

The Dutch Caribbean have been caught up in a legal dispute between the American oil company ConocoPhillips and the government of Venezuela.

A judge has allowed Conoco to seize Venezuelan-owned and -operated refineries on the islands in order to collect $2 billion in compensation awarded by the International Chamber of Commerce for the 2007 nationalization of Conoco assets in the socialist-run country.

The seizure poses a “potential crisis” to the economy of Curaçao, Prime Minister Eugene Rhuggenaath has told Reuters. The Isla refinery, which processes 335,000 barrels of oil per day, accounts for a tenth of the island’s economy. Read more

Poland Launches Legal Challenge to Nord Stream 2

The skyline of Warsaw, Poland, March 13, 2007
The skyline of Warsaw, Poland, March 13, 2007 (Guido Heitkoetter)

Poland’s antitrust watchdog has begun legal proceedings against Gazprom and the five European companies that are its partners in Nord Stream 2. The regulator alleges that completion of the Baltic Sea pipeline would inhibit competition.

EurActiv reports that the companies — Anglo-Dutch Shell, Austria’s OMV, Switzerland’s Engie and Germany’s Uniper and Wintershall — face fines of up to 10 percent of their annual turnover. Read more

Gas Exploration Opens New Doors in Nicosia

View from Nicosia of the Northern Cyprus flag painted on the southern slope of the Kyrenia Mountains, January 4
View from Nicosia of the Northern Cyprus flag painted on the southern slope of the Kyrenia Mountains, January 4 (Wikimedia Commons/Alexander Savin)

Located between Europe and the Middle East, Cyprus has historically been of strategic significance to powers on either side of the Mediterranean Sea. The discovery of natural gas off its shores has raised the island’s geopolitical profile — and might help it overcome communal tensions.

Cypriot waters are estimated to contain between 140 and 220 billion cubic meters of gas with an approximate value of €38 billion.

Exploration should spur economic growth and could make it easier for internationally-recognized Greek Cyprus and Turkey to hash out a compromise for the future of the island. Read more

Russian Gas Pipeline Triggers Transatlantic Spat

German party leaders Sigmar Gabriel and Angela Merkel walk to a news conference in Berlin, June 29, 2015
German party leaders Sigmar Gabriel and Angela Merkel walk to a news conference in Berlin, June 29, 2015 (Bundesregierung)

An Americans sanctions bill that explicitly mentions the Nord Stream 2 pipeline has set off alarm bells in Berlin and Vienna.

In a panicky joint statement, the foreign ministers of Germany and Austria urge the United States not to impose “illegal extraterritorial sanctions” on the European companies that are building a pipeline under the Baltic Sea.

Sigmar Gabriel, a social democrat, and Sebastian Kurz, a conservative, warn that such penalties could affect transatlantic relations in a “new and very negative way” and “diminish the effectiveness of our stance on the conflict in Ukraine.”

European countries and the United States are currently united in condemning Russia’s annexation of the Crimean Peninsula and its support for an insurgency in southeastern Ukraine. Both sides have imposed sanctions on Russia. Read more

May Adopts Energy Policy Her Predecessor Called “Nuts”

Prime Ministers Theresa May of the United Kingdom and Lars Løkke Rasmussen of Denmark answer questions from reporters in Copenhagen, October 10, 2016
Prime Ministers Theresa May of the United Kingdom and Lars Løkke Rasmussen of Denmark answer questions from reporters in Copenhagen, October 10, 2016 (The Prime Minister’s Office/Tom Evans)

British prime minister Theresa May has adopted a policy her Conservative predecessor, David Cameron, once described as “nuts”.

When the opposition Labour Party proposed to freeze electricity rates in 2013, Cameron, then the Conservative Party leader, ridiculed it.

Now May has taken it over. Read more

Europe Quietly Breaks Free from Russian Gas

A gas-fired power plant is constructed in Eemshaven, the Netherlands, October 30, 2010
A gas-fired power plant is constructed in Eemshaven, the Netherlands, October 30, 2010 (Nuon)

Europe’s supposed dependence on Russian natural gas is still frequently cited within the context of East-West relations. But this is an outdated view, argue the Brookings Institutions’ Tim Boersma and Michael E. O’Hanlon.

The two write that EU efforts to wean the bloc off its dependence on Russia, set in motion after the latter occupied and annexed the Crimean Peninsula from its former satellite state Ukraine in 2014, are paying off.

Russia still provides a third of Europe’s gas. But the continent has quietly turned the tables on its supplier in several ways, from expanding storage capacity to investing in alternative energy.

“One might say that Europe has escalation dominance over Russia,” Boersma and O’Hanlon argue; “the latter needs to export to Europe more than Europe need Russian hydrocarbons.” Read more

Russian Pipeline Divides German Right

Manfred Weber, leader of the European People's Party, makes a speech in the European Parliament in Brussels, April 28
Manfred Weber, leader of the European People’s Party, makes a speech in the European Parliament in Brussels, April 28 (European Parliament)

A proposed Baltic Sea pipeline that would allow Germany and Russia to bypass Central Europe is dividing Chancellor Angela Merkel’s ruling coalition.

Manfred Weber, the German head of the conservative bloc in the European Parliament, has come out against the proposed pipeline, writing that it could have “detrimental consequences for the gas supply in Central and Eastern Europe, including Ukraine.”

If Russia were to pipe more gas through the Nord Stream network, Ukraine could lose up to €2 billion per year in transfer fees.

Countries in Central and Eastern Europe earlier wrote the European Commission to express similar concerns. They argued that allowing Russia to bypass the region would play right into its hands.

“Preserving the transport route through Ukraine is the strategic interest of the EU as a whole,” the countries said, “not only from an energy security perspective, but also reinforcing the stability of the Eastern European region.” Read more