Finland approves Russian gas pipeline plans

Helsinki (Finland) (AFP) –


Finland on Thursday granted its final approval for a pipeline dubbed Nord Stream 2, which will be used to pump Russian natural gas to Germany, to go through its waters in the Baltic Sea.

The final green light for the Finnish stretch of the planned pipeline came from the Nordic country's environmental authorities, a week after the government in Helsinki gave its consent for a project that has sparked controversy in the European Union.

"The Regional State Administrative Agency for Southern Finland has granted the permit required under the Finnish Water Act for construction of the Nord Stream 2 natural gas pipelines between Russia and Germany within the Finnish Exclusive Economic Zone," the agency said in a statement.

But the plan to bring more Russian gas to Western Europe is facing headwind elsewhere in the bloc.

Although German authorities gave Nord Stream 2 their green light at the end of March, Chancellor Angela Merkel said Tuesday that the plan could not go forward "without clarity about the Ukrainian transit role".

If completed, the new pipeline would allow Russian gas to bypass its former route via Ukraine and Poland on its way to European markets.

Ukraine and Poland have been critical of the project, which they claim to undermine the EU in the face of Russian aggression.

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko has urged Germany to abandon plans to build Nord Stream 2, saying it would amount to an "economic and energy blockade" of his crisis-torn country.

Approvals are still needed from Russian, Danish and Swedish authorities.

If approved, the pipeline's construction could begin is as soon as this year, aiming for a commercial use in the beginning of 2020.