Germany, EU condemn US sanctions on Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline

The Nord Stream 2 project, above, which will deliver Russian natural gas to Germany via a pipeline under the Baltic Sea, was supposed to be expected to be completed in early 2020. (dpa via AP)
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Updated 21 December 2019

Germany, EU condemn US sanctions on Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline

  • Sanctions target contractors working to lay pipes for Nord Stream 2 project
  • Project aims to double deliveries of Russian natural gas to Germany via a pipeline under the Baltic Sea

BERLIN: Germany accused the US of interfering in its internal affairs on Saturday for imposing sanctions on companies working on a major project to supply Western Europe with Russian gas.
Moscow and the European Union also issued statements criticizing the sanctions, a day after President Donald Trump signed off on asset freezes and visa restrictions on those involved in the Nord Stream 2 project.
US lawmakers are seeking to stymie what they regard as an increasing reliance on Russian energy in Western Europe by targeting the project, which aims to double deliveries of Russian natural gas to Germany via a pipeline under the Baltic Sea.
The sanctions target contractors working to lay pipes for Nord Stream 2 — a €10-billion ($11-billion) project expected to be completed in early 2020 — and another Russian gas project, TurkStream.
Swiss contractor Allseas said after the sanctions were imposed that it had “suspended its Nord Stream 2 pipelay activities.”
Although US Congress overwhelmingly backed the sanctions, there was some criticism among lawmakers of a move that in effect punishes NATO allies such as Germany.
While an EU spokesman criticized “the imposition of sanctions against EU companies conducting legitimate business,” the German government said Berlin rejected “these sorts of extra-territorial sanctions.”
“They will hit German and European companies and constitute an interference in our internal affairs,” said Chancellor Angela Merkel’s spokeswoman Ulrike Demmer.
Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova accused the United States of pushing an ideology that hindered global trade, adding on her Facebook page: “Soon they will demand that we stop breathing.”
Russian gas giant Gazprom is financing roughly half of the project, with the other half paid for by five European companies.


Over 200,000 vote in Hong Kong’s pro-democracy primaries

Updated 12 July 2020

Over 200,000 vote in Hong Kong’s pro-democracy primaries

  • Exercise being held two weeks after Beijing imposed a sweeping national security law on the semi-autonomous territory

HONG KONG: Hundreds of thousands of Hong Kongers turned up over the weekend to vote in an unofficial two-day primary election held by the city’s pro-democracy camp as it gears up to field candidates for an upcoming legislative poll.
The exercise is being held two weeks after Beijing imposed a sweeping national security law on the semi-autonomous territory in a move widely seen as chipping away at the “one country, two systems” framework under which Britain handed Hong Kong over to China in 1997. It was passed in response to last year’s massive protests calling for greater democracy and more police accountability.
Throngs of people lined up at polling booths in the summer heat to cast their vote despite a warning by Hong Kong’s constitutional affairs minister, Eric Tsang last week that the primaries could be in breach of the new national security law, because it outlaws interference and disruption of duties by the local government.
Organizers have dismissed the comments, saying they just want to hold the government accountable by gaining a majority in the legislature.
The legislation prohibits what Beijing views as secessionist, subversive or terrorist activities or as foreign intervention in Hong Kong affairs. Under the law, police now have sweeping powers to conduct searches without warrants and order Internet service providers and platforms to remove messages deemed to be in violation of the legislation.
On Friday, police raided the office of the Public Opinion Research Institute, a co-organizer of the primary elections. The computer system was suspected of being hacked, causing a data leak, police said in a statement, and an investigation is ongoing.
Hong Kong’s pro-democracy camp, which includes multiple parties, is attempting to join forces and use the primaries as a guide to field the best candidates in the official legislative election in September. Its goal is to win a majority in the legislature, which is typically skewed toward the pro-Beijing camp.
To hold the primary elections, pro-democracy activists had raised money via crowd funding. They pledged to veto the government’s budget if they clinch a majority in the legislature. Under the Basic Law, under which Hong Kong is governed, city leader Carrie Lam must resign if an important bill such as the budget is vetoed twice.
On Saturday alone, nearly 230,000 people voted at polling booths set up across the city, exceeding organizers’ estimates of a 170,000 turnout over the weekend.