SASSNITZ, GERMANY - OCTOBER 19: A worker walks in front of pipes which lie stacked at the Nord Stream 2 facility at Mukran on Ruegen Islandon October 19, 2017 in Sassnitz, Germany. Nord Stream is laying a second pair of offshore pipelines in the Baltic Sea between Vyborg in Russia and Greifswald in Germany for the transportation of Russian natural gas to western Europe. An initial pair of pipelines was inaugurated in 2012 and the second pair is due for completion by 2019. A total of 50,000 pipes are currently on hand at Mukran, where they receive a concrete wrapping before being transported out to sea. Russian energy supplier Gazprom, whose board is led by former German chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, owns a 51% stake in Nord Stream. (Photo by Carsten Koall/Getty Images)
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Brussels’ efforts to regulate Russia’s controversial Nord Stream 2 gas project have been boosted by France’s support for a proposal to apply EU energy rules to the new pipeline, despite German-led opposition.

While the proposal would not stop the pipeline, the rules could change the operation and economics of the project.

A French Foreign ministry spokesperson said that “the revision of the gas directive aims to apply the rules of the third energy package to all gas pipelines with third countries entering the European territory. The revised directive would apply to the Nord Stream 2 project. France intends to support the adoption of such a directive”.

With the French support, EU ambassadors are expected to approve the long-stalled gas directive reform on Friday and negotiations with the European Parliament could start next week.

A Gazprom-backed project, Nord Stream 2 would double the amount of gas that Russia could send under the Baltic Sea to Germany. Critics worry that Moscow will send gas through the new pipes rather than via Ukraine, removing an important source of revenue for Kiev.

Berlin and other supporters insist the project is commercial. However, critics – including many central and eastern European states and the European Commission – argue it is a political project that runs counter to the EU’s objective to cut energy dependence on Moscow and risks harming Ukraine.

The policy split between Paris and Berlin comes just weeks after French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel signed their Franco-German co-operation treaty in Aachen.

The French ministry said on Thursday that “work is continuing with our partners, in particular with Germany, on possible changes to the text”.

Initially proposed in November 2017, the rules will apply to Nord Stream 2 if the change is enacted before gas flows through the new pipeline.

The change would mean all new and existing import pipelines have to meet four principles: non-discriminatory tariffs; transparent reporting and at least 10 per cent of the capacity offered to third parties; so-called ownership unbundling, where the pipes are not owned directly by the gas supplier.

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