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Energy deal ties Finland to the Russian Nord Stream 2

A Finnish energy company Fortum has been negotiating with the German E.ON to buy a German energy company called Uniper. The deal has been controversial in Finland as it would include a large number of coal fired power plants that do not fit the Fortum’s strategy of becoming a sustainable and green energy producer. As 50,8 % of Fortum is owned by the Finnish government, the deal has an obvious political angle.

(Photo: Nord Stream)

The most disturbing aspect of the deal is that Uniper owns a 950 Million € share of the Russo-German gas pipeline project Nord Stream 2. The Finnish minister responsible for directing the state owned companies is the Center Party’s Mika Lintilä. He stated that he didn’t have any information about the Uniper’s share of the gas pipeline. He also stated that the Finnish government would not veto the deal even if it would link Finland to the controversial pipeline and Russian geopolitical interests.

Finland, unlike the Baltic States and Sweden, refuses to a acknowledge the geopolitical aspects of the Nord Stream. The Finnish government has repeatedly stated that it will treat the pipeline as a business venture and that the permit process will focus only on the environmental aspects of the pipeline.

The Russian natural gas pipeline Nord Stream 2 is by far the most controversial infrastructure project in the Baltic Sea region. The pipeline will feed Germany with Russian gas for decades to come. At the same time the rest of the Europe is trying to reduce it’s dependency from the Russian energy exports. Germany’s increased reliance of Russian energy is seen as a major geopolitical risk, that could effect how Germany is willing to confront the Russian aggression in the region.

Gas pipeline laying (Photo: Gazprom)

In addition to the energy reliance issue, Sweden has been vary about the construction process and the prolonged presence of  the Russian vessels and crews in the Swedish waters. The Russian state owned naval construction companies and energy giants like Gazprom have very close ties with the Russian government and the military. Sweden went as far as to preventing Russia from using the harbor at Gotland as a base for the pipe laying operation, as Gotland is seen as a strategic location and a possible target for a Russian invasion.

The Russian media has already published several articles that predict that the Finnish ownership of Uniper will ease the approval process of the Nord Stream 2. This media attention indicates that the Kremlin sees this deal as an geopolitical advantage.

While Finland has stood with the rest of the EU and participated on the sanctions against Russia and the government took the Russian hybrid threat seriously, it’s clear that at least some elements within the ruling Centre Party are either very naïve about Russia or actively supporting Russia’s geopolitical agenda. For example one ex-prime minister is currently sitting at the board of the Kremlin controlled Sperbank and the party’s MEP is gathering a pseudo-party from the pro-Russian fringe groups.

It seems that the “Finlandization” is not yet a phenomenon of the past, but still an active force in the Finnish politics.


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