Estonia Won't Allow Survey for Pipeline

September 20, 2007 - 7:19am
Associated Press Writer

TALLINN, Estonia (AP) - Estonia decided Thursday it will not allow a German-Russian consortium to conduct a survey of its exclusive economic zone in the Baltic Sea for a planned underwater gas pipeline.

The survey was necessary for a possible rerouting of the 750-mile pipeline that will deliver natural gas from Russia to Germany under the Baltic Sea.

"Each coastal country has full sovereignty and a right to make decision involving its own waters," Foreign Minister Urmas Paet said in a news conference. "Furthermore, we think the Baltic Sea is not a proper place for such a pipeline."

Estonia's refusal won't stop the $7 billion project _ dubbed Nord Stream _ from proceeding toward its 2010 launch. The pipeline's route, approved last year by the consortium, does not cross into Estonia's territorial waters.

"Our intention with this application was to meet Finland's request and to find ways to minimize environmental impact," Jens Muller, a spokesman for Nord Stream AG in Switzerland, said.

Finnish experts believe the seabed in Estonia's economic zone could be flatter and thus more environmentally sound for the route, Muller explained. The possible rerouting would have meant going into Estonia's economic zone by only several hundred yards, he said.

Several coastal nations have expressed concern over the pipeline, saying it could damage the Baltic Sea's delicate ecosystem.

The pipeline project has been highly unpopular in Estonia with several recent surveys showing that more than 90 percent of respondents opposed giving permission to Nord Stream for the seabed study.

The issue created tension between Prime Minister Andrus Ansip's Reform Party and ex-premier Mart Laar's IRL union, the current coalition government partners.

Relations between Estonia and Russia have sunk to a low this year after the Baltic state's decision to remove a Soviet-era war memorial that holds deep meaning for ethnic Russians from downtown Tallinn.

Russia's state gas monopoly Gazprom owns 51 percent of Swiss-based Nord Stream, while German energy companies E.ON Ruhrgas AG and Wintershall AG each hold 24.5 percent in the consortium.

According to Nord Stream's plans, after completion of project's first phase in 2010, the pipeline will deliver 27 billion cubic meters of gas to Germany. Two years later, a parallel pipeline will double capacity to 55 billion cubic meters. ___

Associated Press Writer Gary Peach in Riga contributed to this report.

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Octobr 17, 2008 - President Bush Discusses the Visa Waiver Program
Office of the Press Secretary/ White House News

THE PRESIDENT: Thank you all. (Applause.) Please be seated, thank you. Welcome to the White House. I'm pleased to stand with the representatives of seven countries -- the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Slovakia, and South Korea -- that have met the requirements to be admitted to the United States Visa Waiver Program. Soon the citizens of these nations will be able to travel to the United States for business or tourism without a visa. I congratulate these close friends and allies on this achievement, and I thank you for joining us here.

I also thank Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Secretary of the Homeland -- Department of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff for working hard to make sure this day has finally arrived. Appreciate other members of the administration here and members of the Diplomatic Corps.

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