STOCKHOLM Dec 14 The Swedish Baltic island of
Gotland has heeded government security concerns and will reject
a request from Russian gas firm Gazprom to rent a
harbour to support construction of the Nord Stream 2 gas
pipeline, an island official said on Wednesday.
At the same time, the southeastern city of Karlshamn, which
had similar plans to lease a harbour to the Russian
state-controlled firm, delayed a vote on the contract.
Defence Minister Peter Hultqvist and Foreign Minister Margot
Wallstrom had on Tuesday told Gotland and Karlshamn officials in
a meeting that the deals would harm Swedish defence interests.
"The information we received was crucial for us," Tommy
Gardell, chairman of Gotland's Technical Services Committee,
told the Swedish news agency TT.
"We in the region aren't able to make the kind of
assessments made at the Defence Ministry and the Foreign
Ministry. Clearly we need to comply with their assessments."
The two harbours are situated in strategically sensitive
areas - Karlshamn is close to the main naval base at Karlskrona
- and the military and the domestic intelligence service, as
well as the centre-right opposition in parliament, have voiced
their opposition to the planned leases.
Since Russia annexed Crimea from Ukraine in 2014, its
military activity in the Baltic Sea has increased, and Sweden
this year re-established a permanent military presence on
Gotland for the first time since 2005.
Gazprom's plan to double the capacity of the existing Nord
Stream pipeline under the Baltic Sea has met resistance in
particular from Ukraine, which is set to lose transit earnings
on Russian gas crossing its territory.
Others such as Poland and the United States say it will make
the EU too dependent on Russia, already the source of one-third
of its gas. Sweden's own imports of gas are relatively minor.
Gotland policy makers, who had earlier been in favour of a
deal, will formally turn the deal down on Thursday, the Swedish
news agency TT reported.
Karlshamn Mayor Per-Ola Mattsson said the city would not
make a decision on the harbour deal before February. The deals
would be worth about 150 million crowns ($16.4 million) for
Gotland and Karlshamn combined.
($1 = 9.1603 Swedish crowns)
(Reporting by Bjorn Rundstrom; Editing by Kevin Liffey)