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Grigory Pasko: Looking a gift horse in the mouth

Если Вы хотите прочитать оригинал данной статьи на русском языке, нажмите сюда. Read this in Russian. Nord Stream, Scandinavian Style Beware of Greeks bearing gifts* – Part 1 Grigory Pasko, journalist In one of my January articles on the subject of the construction of Nord Stream, I wrote: “the municipality of Slite, on the island of Gotland, has received financial “aid” from Nord Stream in an amount of 70 mln Swedish kronor [approximately $11 mln or €7.4 mln] for deepening its harbor. On top of that – 5 mln kronor for the needs of the local university and 3 mln – for the needs of the local museum. Many have regarded this as a blatant bribe by Nord Stream to the municipality, the opinion of which could influence the construction of a gas storage facility necessary for the needs of the future pipeline.” Of course the opinion of the municipality of Gotland isn’t influential enough to impact the construction of the entire pipeline. But it could easily create a lot of uncomfortable noise and protest against the proposed construction, for example, of a service platform 90 km from the island’s shores. stena050508 A mighty fortress is our Gotland: Can Visby’s ancient city walls withstand the tempting gifts brought by Nord Stream? (photo by Grigory Pasko)

It recently became known that Nord Stream have abandoned the idea of erecting this service platform, because the company has suddenly discovered some kind of progressive technological solution that will allow it to get by without such an important structure for the operation of the pipeline as a service platform.(I will likewise note that I had written about a gas storage facility, and not about a service platform. Inasmuch as Nord Stream have so far apparently not said anything about not building this storage facility, we can assume that the opinion of the Gotlanders still matters to the company).But let us leave aside for the moment the question of whether or not it is technologically possible to operate a complex pipeline system without something that may or may not be necessary. Let us instead return to the question of the money that Nord Stream has promised – or perhaps already paid out? – to the Gotland municipality.The Gotland municipality (known as a kommun in Swedish) – this is the 57 thousand people living on the island. This is 6 thousand small enterprises. This is a moderate rate of unemployment. This is the ancient Hanseatic town of Visby with its medieval fortress wall that has withstood natural disasters and historical winds of change, but has now capitulated to the company Nord Stream.Right in the center of old Visby, there is a modest and inconspicuous building that houses the municipal administration. There I met with the mayor, Eva Nypelius. This pleasant woman announced right off the bat that she would voice only the opinion of the municipal council, and not her own personal one. (It occurred to me that it’s probably hard to live like that: what if your personal opinion often doesn’t coincide with your official one?)We talked about this and that, but when I asked how much money Nord Stream had given the municipality, Ms. Nypelius did not give me an answer. Then again, neither did she say that the municipality hadn’t received money…Here, in brief, is our dialogue.

Is the municipality for the project or against it?The municipality has not taken a decision about the gas pipeline. We think that this is a question for the government and for the Environmental Impact Assessment.The government has already voiced its position on the Environmental Impact Assessment. It has proposed to Nord Stream that it examine an alternative, land-based routing for the pipeline, as required by the Espoo Convention…Yes. And that is also what we have said to the government.

eva050508Gotland’s mayor Eva Nypelius in her office (photo by Grigory Pasko)

How do you assess the fact that the university of Gotland has received money from Nord Stream?I think that Nord Stream is a big international company, and if they want to give money … [to] a university, I think that’s okay.Nord Stream starts in Vologda Oblast. There, people live in poverty, nobody is giving them any money. Why do you think this is so?Yes… [takes a long pause to think of a response] I don’t know about what these cities are like. But I hope that Nord Stream will think about social questions in other countries also, not only on Gotland and in Sweden.Rolf Nilsson, a member of the Swedish parliament, has said that the project is not without its faults from his point of view. And the military have questions about the project. And environmentalists…I don’t know about these things. We have to trust the specialists and trust what Nord Stream will tell us and trust in the Environmental Impact Assessment. I know what Rolf Nilsson thinks about this project, but I must say that this is a priority project for energy in the European Union, and I think the Swedish government decided many years ago that this would be a priority project in the EU.Is there an opinion that if Gotland doesn’t take the money being offered by Nord Stream to improve the port facilities in Slite, the pipeline will be built anyway, only then someone else will get this money?Well… [speaks slowly, weighing every word] I think you’re right. I think it will be so. But when we decided to sign this agreement with Nord Stream concerning the harbor in Slite, we looked at it like an international company that wants to do business with the municipality of Gotland, and they want to use the harbor in Slite, like any other companies we have agreements with that need to use harbors. It is also important to add that there is no clause in the agreement with Nord Stream concerning Slite saying that it is conditional on if they get the pipeline or not.

kommuna050508Sign on the Gotland municipal administration building in Visby (photo by Grigory Pasko)

Can you name any other corporations that have signed similar contracts with the municipality of Gotland – and paid in advance, the way Nord Stream says it intends to?We have big companies that have used the harbor in Klintehamn, for example. And in Slite, we’ve got an agreement with the Swedish Coast Guard to use the harbor. There are different agreements; I couldn’t really say [if someone paid in advance or not].

Further questions from my side did not follow. Perhaps I’m wrong, but it seemed to me that Ms. Nypelius was clearly relieved by this circumstance.Naturally, I still had plenty of questions. But I decided to ask them of other people.*Historical footnote:During the time of the war with Troy, the Achaeans after a lengthy and unsuccessful siege resorted to trickery: they built a huge wooden horse, left it at the walls of Troy, and themselves made it look like they were sailing away from the shores of Troy. The invention of this trick is ascribed to Odysseus, the most cunning of the chieftains of the Danaeans. The priest Laocoön, seeing this horse and knowing the craftiness of the Danaeans, exclaimed “Beware of Greeks bearing gifts!” But the Trojans nevertheless pulled the horse into the city.That night, the Greeks who had been hiding inside the horse came out of it, killed the sentinels, opened the city gates, let in comrades who had returned on the ships and in such a manner took Troy. The expression “Beware of Greeks bearing gifts”, cited often in Latin [after Virgil—Trans.] as “Timeo Danaos et dona ferentes”, has become an adage.Если Вы хотите прочитать оригинал данной статьи на русском языке, нажмите сюда.