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Russian gas and EU law high on agenda as Scholz visits Poland

Russian gas and EU law high on agenda as Scholz visits Poland
December 12, 2021 Web Desk

BERLIN (Reuters) – German Chancellor Olaf Scholz visits Warsaw on Sunday for talks on the Belarus migrant crisis, Poland's judicial independence, Russia's military build-up near Ukraine and a Russian gas pipeline to Germany.

While Scholz has spoken of his aim to safeguard the good relationship Germany has with Poland for years to come, the two leaders have been clear about what they expect from each other.

Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki has said he would urge Scholz to oppose start-up of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline to bring Russian gas to Germany, bypassing Ukraine, citing fears that it could be used by Russia against Europe.

Germany, meanwhile, has backed Poland's efforts to stop the flow of migrants seeking entry from Belarus - a crisis the European Union has accused Minsk of engineering - and said it would help Warsaw and Brussels to find a solution.

Poland's judicial system, however, remains a bone of contention.

"There are issues that we are discussing with each other in Europe, issues that are being assessed differently; for example, when it comes to questions of the rule of law," Scholz was quoted as saying by German broadcaster ARD.

POLAND FINED

The European Court of Justice has imposed fines on Poland after it found that judicial reforms passed by the right-wing Law and Justice (PiS) party breached EU law.

Poland has refused to pay the fine and its top court has ruled that Polish law can take precedence over EU rules.

Germany's new government, sworn in on Wednesday, has not made a public commitment that it would halt the Nord Stream 2 pipeline if Russia were to invade Ukraine, as demanded by Poland and the United States.

Russia has been amassing troops on its border with Ukraine, sparking fears of a possible invasion. US President Joe Biden on Tuesday warned Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin that Nord Stream 2 could be disrupted and tough economic sanctions put in place if troops invade.

US officials have told members of Congress they have an understanding with Germany about shutting down Nord Stream 2 if Russia invades Ukraine, a senior congressional aide said on Tuesday.

German officials have not confirmed those reports but Scholz said on Wednesday that there would be consequences if Russia breached Ukraine's border, a line confirmed by the Group of Seven richest democracies on Sunday.