Top EU official vows to ‘stress test’ pipelines after leaks

October 5, 2022 GMT
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen speaks during a commission on Russia's escalation of its war of aggression against Ukraine, at the European Parliament, Wednesday, Oct. 5, 2022, in Strasbourg, eastern France. (AP Photo/Jean-Francois Badias)
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen speaks during a commission on Russia's escalation of its war of aggression against Ukraine, at the European Parliament, Wednesday, Oct. 5, 2022, in Strasbourg, eastern France. (AP Photo/Jean-Francois Badias)
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen speaks during a commission on Russia's escalation of its war of aggression against Ukraine, at the European Parliament, Wednesday, Oct. 5, 2022, in Strasbourg, eastern France. (AP Photo/Jean-Francois Badias)
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European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen speaks during a commission on Russia's escalation of its war of aggression against Ukraine, at the European Parliament, Wednesday, Oct. 5, 2022, in Strasbourg, eastern France. (AP Photo/Jean-Francois Badias)
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European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen speaks during a commission on Russia's escalation of its war of aggression against Ukraine, at the European Parliament, Wednesday, Oct. 5, 2022, in Strasbourg, eastern France. (AP Photo/Jean-Francois Badias)

BRUSSELS (AP) — The head of the European Union’s executive arm vowed Wednesday to introduce checks on key EU infrastructure, including energy, after the suspected sabotage of natural gas pipelines in the Baltic Sea.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said the damage last week to the Nord Stream pipelines that run from Russia to Germany has “shown how vulnerable our energy infrastructure is” and a comprehensive plan is needed to ensure the safety of key EU networks, including for data.

“We need to stress test our infrastructure,” von der Leyen told the European Parliament in Strasbourg, France. “We need to identify whether we have weak points and where these weak points are.” She also said that satellite surveillance will be used to detect potential threats.

Amid Russia’s seven-month war against Ukraine and Western military support for the Ukrainian government, undersea explosions last week ruptured the Nord Stream 1 and Nord Stream 2 pipelines, which were built to carry gas from Russia to Germany.

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Because member countries are responsible for overseeing energy and other basic infrastructure within the EU, von der Leyen said her safety push would involve national capitals.

“We will work with member states to ensure effective stress tests in the energy sector,” she said. “This, then, should be followed by other high-risk sectors, such as the offshore digital and electricity infrastructure.”

The Danish and Swedish governments have said that several hundred pounds of explosives were used to damage the twin pipelines at two locations off Sweden and two off Denmark last week. The leaks discharged large amounts of methane into the air.

“The detonations must be seen in the light of the deteriorating security situation in Europe. We have every reason to believe that this is deliberate sabotage,” Swedish Foreign Minister Ann Linde said Wednesday. “At present, we cannot ensure which actor is responsible.”

Russian President Vladimir Putin accused the West on Friday of attacking the pipelines, which the United States and its allies vehemently denied.

Danish authorities said the two leaks they were monitoring in international waters stopped over the weekend. One of the leaks off Sweden also appeared to have ended.

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The Swedish coast guard said Wednesday the size of the remaining leak from the Nord Stream 2 pipeline was “somewhat smaller” and “gives the impression of decreasing.”

Sweden has deployed a vessel capable of advanced diving missions above the leak, although it was unclear when either a diver or a submarine would go down to do an inspection.

Sweden’s coast guard has one of its vessels on site around the clock to monitor sea traffic in the area.

Sweden’s prosecuting authority and the Swedish Security Services are heading an investigation. Copenhagen police were in charge of an inquiry in in close cooperation with Denmark’s energy authorities, the National Police and the Danish Police Intelligence Service.

Also in Strasbourg on Wednesday, EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell predicted that the bloc’s 27 national governments would agree to hit Russia with new sanctions in response to its illegal annexation of four regions in Ukraine that make up around 15% of Ukrainian territory.

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The planned new penalties include a price cap on Russian oil, curbs on EU exports of aircraft components to the country and limits on imports of Russian steel. EU member-state diplomats were aiming to approve the new package as soon as Wednesday in Brussels.

The new penalties build on already unprecedented European sanctions against Russia as a result of its war against Ukraine since February.

EU measures to date include restrictions on energy supplies from Russia, bans on financial transactions with Russian entities including the central bank and asset freezes against more than 1,000 people and over 100 entities.

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