For Manuela Schwesig, the Nord Stream 2 issue is far from over. Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania’s prime minister will have to face a parliamentary committee of inquiry in the Schwerin state parliament. He is supposed to clarify the events surrounding a foundation set up by the country to protect the gas pipeline of the Russian energy company Gazprom from Western sanctions.
The opposition factions CDU, Greens, FDP and AfD voted to set up the committee, while the SPD and Left abstained. In addition to Schwesig, her predecessor Erwin Sellering and former chancellor Gerhard Schröder (both SPD), who supported the pipeline as the supervisory board of Nord Stream 2, are to answer the committee’s questions.
The MV Climate and Environmental Protection Foundation was founded in January last year, but the name alone is deceptive. Because the promotion of climate protection was only the official figurehead of the foundation. In reality, it served to make the completion of Nord Stream 2 possible. For Schwesig, after the Russian invasion of Ukraine, it becomes a problem how much she worked for this project. The founding of the foundation was initiated not only in the Ministry of Energy, but also in the Schwerin State Chancellery.
For example, there is the two-minute video in which the SPD politician justified the controversial construction at the time. The foundation could “make a small contribution to support the pipeline,” said Schwesig. “The completion of the Baltic Sea pipeline is being threatened by American sanctions, in the Americans’ own economic interest.”
The money for this came mainly from Gazprom, whose subsidiary Nord Stream 2 has already paid 20 million euros to the foundation. The foundation served as a kind of straw man for Nord Stream 2 via an economic business operation, the head of which was appointed by the Gazprom subsidiary: it could appear as a client to companies that were supposed to do the work. For this, they even received a surcharge of ten percent from Nord Stream 2.
Just over a year after Schwesig’s promotional video, there is no longer any talk of the supposedly ambitious climate protection plans. The foundation, which the SPD, CDU and Left Party decided to set up in the state parliament in 2021, is now being dissolved. A motion to this effect was accepted in the state parliament on Thursday with the votes of the SPD and the left.
Schwesig received unexpected headwind from within its own ranks: Her predecessor Sellering, the chairman of the board of the foundation, declared a dissolution for legal reasons not possible. In order to substantiate this position, the three-member board even commissioned an expert opinion. The state government responded with its own report, which came to the conclusion that in the most favorable case, the board of directors would dissolve the foundation – and otherwise the foundation supervisory authority could intervene.
Schwesig has now come to an agreement with Sellering: the board of directors will remain in office until the foundation’s business operations – i.e. the part that was of interest to Nord Stream 2 – have been completed. There is talk of September in Schwerin. After the board’s resignation, a new board of directors is to dissolve the rest of the foundation.
Sellering is considered the driving force behind Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania’s unusually close ties to Nord Stream 2 and Putin’s Russia. His tenure also saw the invention of “Russia Day,” a business gathering sponsored in large part by companies benefiting from the pipeline’s construction. The ex-prime minister is also chairman of the German-Russian partnership association, in which Nord Stream 2 was also involved. The association received unusually generous financial support from the state.
However, the committee of inquiry will not deal with all these connections, but will focus on the questionable climate foundation and Nord Stream 2. This could be quite dangerous for Schwesig, because some of the 74 questions that the CDU, Greens and FDP list in their application have political implications: “To what extent was there any influence by third parties on the actions of the respective state government?” these questions. It is already becoming apparent that Nord Stream 2 Schwesig’s government was partly responsible for the conception of the foundation and public communication.
What the opposition in Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania particularly resents is the persistent silence about the inner workings of the foundation. The state government refused to provide information to both journalists and members of parliament when asked. The committee of inquiry will now deal intensively with the Prime Minister’s internal communication.