Pressure for quick decision in German government talks

Germany’s knife-edge election is proving a headache not only for the politicians attempting to form a coalition government, but also for Russia, which fears it could derail the multi-billion-dollar Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline.

he Greens and the Free Democratic Party (FDP) are expected to become kingmakers in talks, after the centre-left Social Democrats edged ahead of the Christian Democrats, the party of outgoing chancellor Angela Merkel.

Both parties have expressed opposition to the Russian pipeline, for geopolitical as well as environmental reasons. The project was controversially backed by Ms Merkel.

The pipeline, which links northern Germany with Russian gas via the sea, was finished in early September, taking three years to build amid delays caused by political opposition and US sanctions.

Before the election, the first gas was expected to flow as soon as German regulators gave the green light in October. But now the future of the project hangs in the balance as the parties begin coalition talks on Friday, which are likely to be protracted.

Olaf Scholz, the leader of the Social Democrats, has claimed he has a mandate to lead the country after winning the biggest share of the votes, while Armin Laschet has faced calls to resign after leading the Christian Democrats to their worst post-war results.

The Green Party took 15pc of the vote in Sunday’s parliamentary elections, and leader Annalena Baerbock is poised to take up a high government position.

German media reports she could become foreign minister, which would significantly complicate energy talks between Russia and Germany.

Russian state newspaper Rossiyskaya Gazeta wrote yesterday that “even taking into account the European interest in Russian gas, the election results in Germany pose a real threat to Nord Stream 2”.

Tabloid Komsomolskaya Pravda highlighted that Ms Baerbock previously indicated she would oppose the project “even after it was finished”.

Before the election, Ms Baerbock told Germany’s FAZ newspaper: “I still think this pipeline is wrong, for reasons of climate policy, but above all for geostrategic reasons.”

Christian Lindner, the FDP’s leader, suggested he would support the project “when the Russian people have elected a democratic government in free self-determination”.

The new German government may still try to revise specific agreements with Russia on the pipeline, a German official told Russian newspaper Izvestia.

“Even if the Greens do not lead the coalition, the formation of a new government will nevertheless be followed by a revision of Germany’s energy policy,” said Urs Unkauf, a representative of the Federal Association for Economic Development and Foreign Trade in Germany.

Mr Scholz, the outgoing vice-chancellor, said on Monday that he wants a new government before Christmas, if possible.

Forming a government can take months in Germany as parties thrash out in detail the new coalition’s plans.

Mr Laschet’s CDU/CSU bloc held a meeting of its politicians yesterday, with recriminations likely after a disastrous campaign.

After saying on Sunday night that it would do “everything we can” to form a new administration, Mr Laschet made clear on Monday that he still hopes to lead one, but sounded more reserved, arguing that voters gave no party a mandate.

The head of the Christian Democrats’ youth wing, Tilman Kuban, said “we lost the election, period”. 

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