European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen on December 27 criticized new U.S. legislation that imposes sanctions on European companies building the Russian Nord Stream 2 natural-gas pipeline to Germany.
She is the latest European official to speak out about the unilateral sanctions, which have already forced a Swiss-based company to halt its work on the 2,460-kilometer pipeline running along the floor of the Baltic Sea.
"The EU Commission emphatically rejects sanctions against European companies that engage in projects in line with the law," Von der Leyen said.
Congress earlier this month included in the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) a provision to punish the owners of vessels laying the Nord Stream 2 pipeline in the Baltic Sea. U.S. President Donald Trump signed the NDAA into law on December 20, putting the sanctions into force.
Allseas Group announced that day that it was halting work on the $11 billion project. Nord Stream 2 was scheduled to be completed early next year.
Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev said recently that the pipeline might be delayed by a couple of months due to the fresh U.S. sanctions but there was nothing "catastrophic" about the situation.
German Finance Minister Olaf Scholz last week called the sanctions "a severe intervention in German and European internal affairs."
Washington says the pipeline will increase the Kremlin’s influence over Europe and weaken the leverage of East European countries.
The pipeline will reroute Russian gas around Ukraine and other countries, depriving them of transit fees.
Von der Leyen, though, said the commission must protect the interests of its eastern member states.
Shortly after Trump signed the sanctions bill into law, Russia and Ukraine agreed on a new gas transit contract through 2024.
Russia had been pushing initially for a one-year contract, while Ukraine was seeking 10 years.
Analysts said the U.S. sanctions may have helped Ukraine get a better deal.