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Grigory Pasko: Screening the Nord Stream Doc in Germany

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Grigory Pasko, journalist

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I recently had the pleasure of participating in a screening of my short documentary film on the Nord Stream pipeline project in the cinema hall of the Berlin historical museum.  Our modest event was graced with some impressive attendees: Nord Stream AG Jens Müller (who heads up their public relations), Neel Strøbæk of Rambol (the group which carried out the environment assessment report in accordance with the Espoo Convention); Tobias Münchmeyer of Greenpeace, Bundestag Deputy Rainder Steenblock and around 70 audience members. A discussion took place after the showing of the film.

I can’t help but notice a pattern of multiplicity taking place.  When we first showed the film inside the Swedish Parliament, just one Nord Stream representative showed up.  When we were invited for a screening in the Finnish Parliament, there were two waiting there for us.  And finally, when we came to Berlin, there was a foursome.  Logically, I suppose we can expect eight Nord Streamers to come to the next showing.


par070209.JPGAnyways, on to the screening itself.  At the risk of boasting, I am openly proud to report that the doc was well received, and even got a round of applause upon conclusion.  Then,in the spirit of fairness and healthy debate, Müller and Strøbæk were given their opportunity to show their videotapes about the wonderful pipeline project – with production budgets and quality that I could only salivate over. According to the rules of the proceedings, they asked the organizers ofthe event for 15 minutes. In fact they used up half an hour.  If weconsider that my film went on for 44 minutes, then the organizers ofthe event had the right to demand from Nord Stream monetarycompensation for the opportunity to pitch their pet project.

What stuck in memory from Nord Stream’s advertising reels?  The fact that a map of the planned route was shown on screen, but with a new offshoot from the main pipe,going off onto the territory of Sweden.  Earlier, if my memory serves mecorrectly, such an offshoot had been spoken of as a possibility.  However the map shown in the propaganda film suggests that the decision has already been finalized.It begs the question: is this some type of method of exerting pressure on Sweden, so thatit would more quickly adopt a decision on the wobbly EIA report?

The second important point raised in Berlin this week was the ongoing lack of transparency about the costs of this project. Müller stated that the overall cost of the project would be 7.4billion euros. Let us remember this number, because in fact many predict that it will turnout to be twice as much. (They could blame the crisis, for example…). In so doing, atmy insistent requests, Mr. Müller specified more precisely that this figure does not account for the cost of the Gryazovets-Vyborg gas pipeline -a significant component part of the whole gas project. I will remind you all that the costof just this pipeline is 5 billion euros. That is, in such a manner, that we are already talking about a total of 12.4 billion euros. If we take into consideration the fact that former Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder had cited a price of 9 billion euros for the underwater stretch of the pipeline, thenthe real cost of construction must be somewhere in the vicinity of 15 billion euros, which is already closer to the truth as it isunderstood by financial and energy experts.

It goes without saying that answers to some of my questions once againdid not ring out from the lips of the company representatives.  What, for example, is the total damage that will be caused to theenvironment of the Baltic Sea region?  What are the conditions of theagreement with Russia for deliveries of gas through this pipeline?  Willthere be a service platform near Gotland?  Who will be responsible for retrieving the pipes fromthe sea bottom after 50 years of operation of the pipeline? And so on.

There was one more particularly memorable comment from Müller:  “Our projectends on the beach in Lübmin.”   This phrase eloquently makes it clear that the Nord Stream company only exists to build the pipeline, and will not be responsible for all the aftermath – such as the removal of several hundred tons of metal stretching a distance of 2,400 kilometers from the bottom of the Baltic Sea.

Tobias Münchmeyer of the enviro watchdog Greenpeace made an important observation in saying that the project, from the very start, was thedecision of just two politicians – Putin and Schroeder, of whom at least one is now directly making his living.  And the decision ofthese politicians to build the pipeline on the sly fell though – thecompany Nord Stream was forced to do everything openly and to react tothe remarks of the general public, including the concerns raised by the green movement, and those ofmany countries of the Baltic region.  In addition, in the opinion ofTobias, a land-based project is both safer in the environmental senseand much cheaper than the marine variant.

Deputy Steenblock mentioned that the company Nord Stream hasbeen forced on numerous occasions to rewrite the project documentationand to conduct additional expert research. Until the activeintervention of the public they, apparently, were not intending to dothis.

In conclusion, the organizers ofthe Berlin documentary film festival invited me to take part in theirOctober events. (It seems I will have to decline, because it is with greatdifficulty that my film, to my own subjective yet impartial eye, can becalled a movie – perhaps the glitzy commercials from Nord Stream would stand a better chance).  Secondly, speaking on behalf of Nord Stream, Mr. Müller firmly promised that Mr. Mattias Warnig will remain inaccessible to mehenceforth as well, as for many years now I have been seeking an interview.  It is true that I have also submitted all manner of formal applications for the opportunity to interview Mr.Schroeder also, but apparently some still hold him in honor as a denizen of heaven at the company headquarters in Zug, Switzerland, so therefore they don’t pronounce his name in vain.

So despite all this, as the journalists are deprived of access and answers, we’ll continue exploring these important issues, and reporting and sharing everything we can learn.