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How Shell influenced the Dutch political position on Russian gas

With a sophisticated lobby, oil company Royal Dutch Shell influenced the political position of the Netherlands on Nord Stream 2, The Investigative Desk revealed in a reconstruction. The Dutch House of Representatives wanted to subject the exploitation of the controversial gas pipeline to European anti-monopoly rules. Instead, the government served the agenda of Shell, which supported its business partner Gazprom in its wish to keep as much Russian control of the pipeline as possible. 

By Ties Keyzer and Olaf Geurts

The Dutch government failed to inform the House of Representatives correctly about the political developments regarding Nord Stream 2.

The opening of the pipeline that will transport Russian gas directly into Germany will have consequences for the whole of Europe.

In order to prevent a Russian monopoly on the exploitation of Nord Stream 2, and to limit the Kremlin’s possibilities to use this exploitation for political purposes, the European Commission wanted to subject it to its anti-monopoly legislation, and allow non-Russian companies to use it as well. The Dutch government told the Dutch House of Representatives that it supported this position. Via a FOIA-request, The Investigative Desk obtained documents showing that in the internal EU-negotiations, the Dutch government in fact took a stance against close European supervision of the Nord Stream 2 exploitation rules, based on arguments that were directly provided by Shell and its business partner Gazprom.

The Dutch House of Representatives was informed incompletely and incorrectly about this position-change.

In the end, the negotiations between the European member states resulted in an arrangement in which the pipeline will fall under European jurisdiction, but in which Germany will be the chief negotiator with the Russians about the implementation of the EU-rules.

The way Shell influenced the Dutch position on Nord Stream 2.

This shift of the Dutch position can be directly linked to a Shell lobby. As co-financer of Nord Stream 2, the energy company was not keen on limitative rules that might have a negative impact on the profitability of the exploitation. Neither were the Russians, of course. To help their case, the company set up a strong lobby, the documents obtained by The Investigative Desk reveal. Via a variety of channels, Shell knew exactly what was going on in the internal EU decision-making process, often even before the Dutch House of Representatives was informed. This put the company in a key position to exert its influence. When it became clear that the House wanted to vote in favor of the EC’s proposition to install the EU’s anti-monopoly legislation, Shell turned up its lobby a notch. With success. After a series of meetings with top officials and ministers, the Dutch government decided to support a compromise which highly reflected Shell’s preferences.

11 September 2021.

The whole article was published on FTM (in Dutch only). 

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