Nord Stream probes must be transparent

The European Union's agency for criminal justice cooperation, Eurojust, recently proposed a joint investigation team be established to probe the explosions that ruptured the Nord Stream 1 and 2 gas pipelines in September. However, Stockholm has blocked the initiative on the grounds that there is information in Sweden's own investigation "that is subject to confidentiality" as it is directly linked to national security, according to Mats Ljungqvist, the prosecutor leading Sweden's criminal investigation into the pipeline leaks in its economic zone.

Sweden won't even share the findings of its investigation into the explosions with the Russian authorities or the operator of the pipelines, Gazprom.

Although Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin sent a letter to the Swedish government requesting that the Russian authorities and Gazprom be involved in the Swedish investigation, Sweden denied the request. Russia has consequently said that it will not recognize the results of any probes unless its experts are allowed to take part in them.

Initially, Sweden, Denmark and Germany planned to conduct a joint investigation to determine what happened to the pipelines that link Russia and Germany via the Baltic Sea. But they have each subsequently conducted their own separate investigations.

Considering the complicated relationships of the parties involved, it is hard to imagine any of them changing their position. But the unwillingness to cooperate and include Russia in an investigation will only allow the finger-pointing and blame game to continue. This in turn means a lack of transparency about whether the explosions were caused by sabotage, World War II munitions that had been dumped in the area, or some other cause. Given that the leaks have released huge amounts of temperature-raising methane into the atmosphere, they are also an environmental catastrophe that demands determining the cause.

Meanwhile, Europe, which previously relied on Russia for about 40 percent of its gas, was already facing an acute winter energy crisis in the aftermath of Moscow drastically cutting supplies of gas in retaliation to the EU sanctions on Russia. The damage to the Nord Stream pipelines has made the EU's energy crisis worse. Although it is in line with the EU's climate goals for Europeans to try and save more energy, having to save energy because of a shortage of energy is different from choosing to save it. The enforced shutdown of the Nord Stream pipelines might even delay the bloc's green transition by reducing people's enthusiasm for an end to the use of fossil fuels. Germany, for one, has already reopened coal plants that had been mothballed.

A joint investigation into the Nord Stream explosions could not only help shed some light on what actually happened, but also dispel suspicions and lay the groundwork for the necessary work to repair the pipelines and restore supplies of gas, which would in turn help the EU to stay on its green transition track.