Berlin’s policy of giving up Russian natural gas imports is likely to cause hardship and unrest, seven mayors of the German island of Rügen wrote in a letter sent to regional and federal governments on Wednesday. They also urged the federal government to allow gas imports through the Nord Stream 2 pipeline, given the current technical difficulties with Nord Stream 1 – something Berlin has firmly rejected.
In the letter to the Federal Minister of Economic Affairs Robert Habeck and Manuela Schwesig, Prime Minister of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, the mayors “strongly condemn” current conflict in Ukraine, but urge the government to think about the damage its policies could cause to the German population and economy, the DPA news agency said.
“We believe that the path taken by the federal government to disconnect from Russian energy resources is not the right one,” he said. wrote the seven mayors. Initially drafted by the leaders of Bergen, Binz and Sassnitz, the letter was later signed by four other jurisdictions on Rügen, Germany’s largest island and a popular tourist destination.
Giving up gas imports from Russia would mean an explosion in the cost of living, leading to social instability and unrest that could spiral out of control, the mayors wrote, according to German media. Calls from the federal government to save energy – such as showering less and no more hot water – “defy understanding”, they added.
“As mayors of this island, we don’t want to accept any further restrictions,” Sassnitz city manager Frank Kracht told the Mecklenburg-Vorpommern branch of the TV station NDR.
The mayors rejected proposals to increase the number of wind turbines near residential areas, calling them a health hazard. “a general reconsideration of the solution to the current problems in relations with Russia.”
One of their suggestions was to get additional natural gas through the Nord Stream 2 pipeline. The pipeline from Russia to Germany under the Baltic Sea was completed at the end of 2021 and was simply awaiting Berlin’s operating license – which was indefinitely suspended on February 22, two days before Russia sent troops to Ukraine.
NS2 was set to double the volume of Russian gas exports, but was delayed by US sanctions seeking to protect Ukraine’s gas transport revenues. Nord Stream 1, which continues to supply Germany with gas, is currently running at only 20% capacity due to maintenance requirements. The operator, Gazprom, says several turbines at Portovaya’s compressor station will require maintenance to maintain certification. The first was held up by Canada, citing anti-Russian sanctions over the conflict in Ukraine, until Berlin intervened to request an exemption. NS2 does not use Siemens turbines and can be maintained regardless of sanctions.
However, Berlin has refused to even consider the possibility of using NS2. Economics Minister Habeck has said the pipeline cannot operate without certification. He also accused Russian President Vladimir Putin of trying to damage EU solidarity with Ukraine by driving up the gas price.
‘Putin has the gas, but we have the power’ Habeck said Tuesday, calling on the Germans to stand together.
Recent polls showed widespread pessimism in German industry regarding future business prospects. Commenting on the turbine’s slowdown last week, Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock said gas shortages could lead to an uprising.
“If we don’t get the gas turbine, we won’t get any more gas and we won’t be able to support Ukraine at all, because then we’ll be busy with popular uprisings.” she told the TV outlet RND. Baerbock hastened to add that this may have been “overdone” and insisted that most Germans supported sending weapons to Ukraine.