France and Germany have struck a compromise allowing Berlin to remain the lead negotiator with Russian Federation on the Nord Stream II gas pipeline to Europe, a proposed deal showed Friday.
It calls for all import pipelines to meet European Union energy market rules by not being directly owned by gas suppliers; applying non-discriminatory tariffs and transparent reporting; and allowing at least 10 percent of capacity to be made available to third parties.
An EU source has said that France's vote will be decisive, likely leaving Germany short of a blocking minority, according to Reuters.
On Thursday, the Foreign Ministry released a statement saying: "France intends to support the adoption of this directive".
"Work is continuing with our partners, especially Germany, on the changes that could be made to the text", it added.
While Gazprom owns the project, half of its 9.5 billion-euro ($10.8 billion) cost is being financed by Royal Dutch Shell Plc, Germany's Uniper SE and Wintershall AG, as well as France's Engie SA and Austria's OMV AG.
The EU wants to bring pipelines coming into the bloc under its energy rules. Gas is due to start arriving in Germany by the end of the year.
The EU Commission had been under considerable pressure to act as arbiter, until it passed the buck to member states to decide.
The draft text replaces the older wording stating the European Union rules on gas imports will be applied by "the territory of the member states" and or the "territorial sea of the member states".
Any delay to Gazprom's push to complete construction of Nord Stream 2 in 2019 could weaken Moscow's hand in those negotiations.
On the other hand, the United States, which is itself a major gas producer, was also fuelling concerns that the project would increase Europe's dependence on Russian gas.
"There was indeed an agreement which was only possible thanks to close cooperation between France and Germany", German Chancellor Angela Merkel told reporters in Berlin when asked about Nord Stream 2. He added, however, that it sought "guarantees for the security of Europe and for the security and stability of Ukraine".
The European Parliament also opposes Nord Stream 2.
In a joint op-ed published by Germany's Deutsche Welle, the US ambassadors to Germany, Denmark, and the European Union on February 7 urged EU member states to support the proposed change in the EU regulations.
"Cancelling the project would send a clear signal that Moscow can not get away unscathed with its aggression against neighbouring states, and its meddling in our democracies", they wrote in a joint op-ed published by Deutsche Welle on Thursday.
So far, EU-mediated talks between Russian Federation and Ukraine have failed to agree the terms of such transits before their current contract expires by year's end.
She has said there will be no dependence on Russian Federation if Europe diversifies at the same time.
"This is a project for the next decades and therefore, to a certain extent, independent of current events", a spokesman for the group said. Chancellor Angela Merkel, who has always been a proponent of the pipeline, responded to the Nord Stream 2 criticism on Friday. EURACTIV Poland's media partner "Gazeta Wyborcza" reports.
From across the Atlantic, Donald Trump's administration has been lobbying against the pipeline.
A transatlantic tiff over Europe's natural gas supply came to the boil on Sunday (13 January), as Donald Trump's ambassador to Germany threatened firms involved in a pipeline from Russian Federation with sanctions.
The resolution calls for the pipeline's cancellation and supports a multinational freedom of navigation in the Black Sea after Russia's aggression against Ukraine in the Kerch Strait.