BRUSSELS—Ukraine’s prime minister on Monday urged the European Union to block the Nord Stream II gas pipeline project, saying it will hurt Ukraine and hand Russia more of a monopoly over gas supplies to the continent.
“We believe that this project has to be stopped, banned because we do not think it is in the interest of Ukraine and [the] European union,” Arseniy Yatsenyuk said after meeting with two senior EU officials. The pipeline, he said, will give “more of a monopoly to Russian gas.”
In June, Royal Dutch Shell RDS.A -4.40 % PLC, Germany’s E.ON AG EONGY -0.21 % and Austria’s OMV AG OMVKY -2.63 % said they would allow Gazprom to ship an extra 55 billion cubic meters of gas to Europe every year through the Nord Stream pipeline via the Baltic Sea.
The pipeline proposal would give Moscow an alternative to using Ukraine as a transit route. The EU currently imports about one-third of its gas from Russia, with almost half of that coming through Ukraine.
The Nord Stream II project has placed Brussels in a difficult bind. The EU has been central to efforts to support Kiev in its clash with Russia over eastern Ukraine and has pledged an energy union which would increase the diversification of its energy supplies. EU officials said earlier this year existing gas pipelines from Russia already more than meet the bloc’s existing and future energy needs. They have also said Ukraine has been a good partner country for transporting energy.
U.S. officials have also pushed the EU not to proceed with the project, arguing it could significantly increase Russia’s leverage over its neighbor.
However, EU officials have repeatedly said they can’t block a project that abides by the region’s laws.
Responding to Mr. Yatsenyuk, the EU’s neighborhood commissioner Johannes Hahn, reiterated that line, saying it was “important to keep competition” in the energy sector and insisted that if the project abides by EU rules, “we don’t have a hook.”
“But we will have a very sound and thorough assessment” of the project, he pledged.
The issue could come up at a meeting of EU leaders later this month. A letter signed by a number of EU governments was sent to the European Commission recently expressing concerns about the project.
Separately, Mr. Yatsenyuk accused pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine of resuming shelling of government forces on Monday morning, a step he said was the most recent example of breaches to the Minsk peace agreement from February.
The EU and the U.S. have repeatedly said they are linking the easing of sanctions on Russia to the full implementation of the Minsk deal.
Mr. Yatsenyuk pushed again for a recommendation by Brussels for EU governments to approve visa-free access to the bloc. Ukraine hopes to win that step in early 2016 and the prime minister said Kiev had already implemented all the reforms Brussels had conditioned its approval on.
The Commission is expected to publish its recommendation around December 15.
Mr. Hahn acknowledged Ukraine had taken the steps it pledged and said he hoped the EU’s executive would be able to issue a “very positive” review of Ukraine’s progress. However he warned he couldn’t prejudge the outcome.
EU officials have indicated that while Ukraine may have done most of the legislative homework to win visa-free access, it still needs to follow up on some steps, including measures to toughen up Kiev’s anticorruption institutions. That could be required to win formal legal backing by Brussels for Ukraine’s visa-free access bid.
EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini hinted at that on Monday.
“The European Union encourages Ukraine to continue the efforts to fulfill the remaining recommendations, notably on anti corruption,” she said at the news conference.
Write to Laurence Norman at firstname.lastname@example.org