News / Europe

    Dutch Review Energy Ties With Russia After MH17 Crash

    FILE- A Russian construction worker speaks on a mobile phone in Portovaya Bay some 170 kms northwest from St. Petersburg, Russia, during a ceremony marking the start of Nord Stream pipeline construction, April 9, 2010.
    FILE- A Russian construction worker speaks on a mobile phone in Portovaya Bay some 170 kms northwest from St. Petersburg, Russia, during a ceremony marking the start of Nord Stream pipeline construction, April 9, 2010.
    Reuters

    The Netherlands is reviewing its extensive energy ties with Russia after the shooting down of Malaysian Airlines flight MH17 in eastern Ukraine a month ago in an attack that killed nearly 200 Dutch nationals, officials and analysts said.

    Successive Dutch governments boosted political and economic ties with Russia, which has become a leading fuel exporter to the Netherlands as it pursued a strategy to become northwest Europe's main energy hub.

    Fuel imports from Russia to the Netherlands ballooned from 728 million euros ($974 million) in 1995 to 19 billion euros ($26 billion) last year.

    The Netherlands was the number one export destination for Russia in 2013, including more than eight billion in oil and gas sold on to other countries, at 29 billion euros, figures from Eurostat and Statistics Netherlands show.

    European trade sanctions imposed on Russia this month in response to the Ukraine crisis prohibit the sale of oil and gas technology, impacting Dutch companies, but not fuel shipments. There are, however, concerns that an escalating trade dispute could impact energy supplies.

    Years of cooperation with Russian President Vladimir Putin ended with the shooting down of the airliner on July 17 with Dutch passengers accounting for two-thirds of the nearly 300 victims, said Louise van Schaik of Clingendael, the Netherlands Institute of International Relations, a leading think tank.

    “You see that since the downing of the airplane that has totally changed,” Van Schaik said in an interview. “The Netherlands will need to think deep and hard about its future energy relationship with Russia. The idea that we could do business with Putin even though he was a Machiavellian politician, is gone.”

    Van Schaik said that while the government was not openly discussing energy policy in the wake of the crash, intense meetings were ongoing behind closed doors.

    “The policy of relying on Russian imports is obviously going to be reviewed," he said. "They are going to have to seek supplies from Norway, or U.S. shale gas, but it will take a while to shift course and build new infrastructure.”

    A Dutch government official speaking on condition of anonymity said “our policy is to make sure that our energy supply gets more diversified. The Russia case underlines the necessity to do so.”
            
    Russian gas targeted

    The Dutch government has not come out with strong accusations against Moscow, but public sentiment clearly swung sharply against Russia in the wake of the crash.

    An opinion poll in July found that nearly 4 percent of the Dutch population of more than 16 million knew someone who died on the plane. More than three quarters believe the plane was shot down by separatists and that Russia was responsible.

    There has also been a change in the political tone since the crash, with Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte uttering threats against Moscow where once he was keen to talk up business links.

    Just a few months ago, Rutte described ties with Moscow as “excellent” and said he preferred a policy of “cool-headed” dialog over sanctions.

    The Dutch government promoted its “powerhouse” trade relationship with Russia, actively seeking Russian investments at home and long-term supplies of Russian gas for a Dutch hub that would dominate regional trade.

    A 2011 study for the Dutch Economic Affairs Ministry calculated that the hub, relying mainly on Russian imports, could generate 7.7 billion euros ($10 billion) in investment, 136,000 jobs and 21 billion euros in spin off business.

    The Dutch, who widely use gas for households and power generation, are now the largest producer and exporter of natural gas in Europe, but supplies will start dwindling in 2025, and they will soon become a net importer.

    With that in mind, Dutch state-owned company GasUnie, which  distributes Russian gas via its European network, has invested up to 650 million euros in a new, 1,200-km Nord Stream pipeline connecting Russia gas fields to the EU market.

    A plan announced last year to expand the Nord Stream pipeline with Gazprom, the world's largest gas producer that is majority-owned by the Russian government, “is currently on hold” and not expected to be revived in the near future, the Dutch Trade Ministry told Reuters in a statement on Thursday.

    A Dutch official added: “In view of the current tensions it is convenient timing to put the project on ice, although no one will say that in public.”

    Another example of growing cooperation between the Dutch and the Russians is in Rotterdam, Europe's largest port, where a string of deals brought in Russian oil and gas companies.

    Russia is the number one client at Rotterdam port, which makes up more than 3 percent of the domestic economy. Some 15 percent of all throughput at Rotterdam was Russian in 2013, the port says.

    ‘At wit's end’

    But economic interests took a back seat after the crash.

    An emotional speech by Dutch Foreign Minister Frans Timmermans at the U.N. galvanized European nations behind tougher sanctions against Russia.

    And Rutte had an “intense” telephone call with Putin. He asked for assistance in recovering Dutch victims, whose bodies were decomposing in the summer heat while Ukrainian troops battled pro-Russian separatists.

    Alluding to Russian involvement in the jet's downing as alleged by Washington, Rutte conveyed the rage and frustration of the Dutch who he said were “at wit’s end” after being blocked from the crash site.

    “Russia should use its influence over the separatists to improve the situation,” Rutte told members of parliament last month.

    If access to the crash site was insufficient, “all political, economic and financial options will be put on the table against those who are directly or indirectly responsible.”

    “This also applies if it is confirmed who is responsible for the downing of MH17. Measures will then follow,” he said.

    It has now been a month since the crash and scores of Dutch experts and law enforcement officials returned home, having been unable to gain access to much of the site. Even as bodies are being identified in Dutch laboratories, remains of an unknown number of victims are still unrecovered.

    You May Like

    Chechen Suspected in Istanbul Attack, but Questions Remain

    Turkish sources say North Caucasus militants involved in bombing at Ataturk airport, but name of at least one alleged attacker raises doubts

    With Johnson Out, Can a New ‘Margaret Thatcher’ Save Britain?

    Contest to replace David Cameron as Britain’s prime minister started in earnest Thursday with top candidates outlining strategy to deal with Brexit fallout

    US Finds Progress Slow Against Human Trafficking in Africa

    Africa continues to be a major source and destination for human trafficking of all kinds -- from forced labor to sexual slavery, says State Department report

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Clinton Leads Trump, But Many Voters Don't Like Eitheri
    X
    Jim Malone
    June 29, 2016 6:16 PM
    In the U.S. presidential race, most recent polls show Democrat Hillary Clinton with a steady lead over Republican Donald Trump as both presumptive party nominees prepare for their party conventions next month. Trump’s disapproval ratings have risen in some recent surveys, but Clinton also suffers from high negative ratings, suggesting both candidates have a lot of work to do to improve their images before the November election. VOA National correspondent Jim Malone has more from Washington.
    Video

    Video Clinton Leads Trump, But Many Voters Don't Like Either

    In the U.S. presidential race, most recent polls show Democrat Hillary Clinton with a steady lead over Republican Donald Trump as both presumptive party nominees prepare for their party conventions next month. Trump’s disapproval ratings have risen in some recent surveys, but Clinton also suffers from high negative ratings, suggesting both candidates have a lot of work to do to improve their images before the November election. VOA National correspondent Jim Malone has more from Washington.
    Video

    Video Slow Rebuilding Amid Boko Haram Destruction in Nigeria’s Northeast

    Military operations have chased Boko Haram out of towns and cities in Nigeria’s northeast since early last year. But it is only recently that people have begun returning to their homes in Adamawa state, near the border with Cameroon, to try to rebuild their lives. For VOA, Chris Stein traveled to the area and has this report.
    Video

    Video New US Ambassador to Somalia Faces Heavy Challenges

    The new U.S. envoy to Somalia, who was sworn into office Monday, will be the first American ambassador to that nation in 25 years. He will take up his post as Somalia faces a number of crucial issues, including insecurity, an upcoming election, and the potential closure of the Dadaab refugee camp in Kenya. VOA’s Jill Craig asked Somalis living in Kenya’s capital city Nairobi how they feel about the U.S. finally installing a new ambassador.
    Video

    Video At National Zoo, Captivating Animal Sculptures Illustrate Tragedy of Ocean Pollution

    The National Zoo in Washington, D.C., is home to about 1,800 animals, representing 300 species. But throughout the summer, visitors can also see other kinds of creatures there. They are larger-than-life animal sculptures that speak volumes about a global issue — the massive plastic pollution in our oceans. VOA's June Soh takes us to the zoo's special exhibit, called Washed Ashore: Art to Save the Sea.
    Video

    Video Baghdad Bikers Defy War with a Roar

    Baghdad is a city of contradictions. War is a constant. Explosions and kidnappings are part of daily life. But the Iraqi capital remains a thriving city, even if a little beat up. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on how some in Baghdad are defying the stereotype of a nation at war by pursuing a lifestyle known for its iconic symbols of rebellion: motorbikes, leather jackets and roaring engines.
    Video

    Video Melting Pot of Immigrants Working to Restore US Capitol Dome

    The American Iron Works company is one of the firms working to renovate the iconic U.S. Capitol Dome. The company employs immigrants of many different cultural and national backgrounds. VOA’s Arman Tarjimanyan has more.
    Video

    Video Testing Bamboo as Building Material

    For thousands of years various species of bamboo - one of the world's most versatile plants - have been used for diverse purposes ranging from food and medicine to textiles and construction. But its use on a large scale is hampered because it's not manufactured to specific standards but grown in the ground. A University of Pittsburgh professor is on track to changing that. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Orphanage in Iraqi City Houses Kids Who Lost their Parents to Attacks by IS

    An orphanage in Iraqi Kurdistan has become home to scores of Yazidi children who lost their parents after Islamic State militants took over Sinjar in Iraq’s Nineveh Province in 2014. Iraqi Kurdish forces backed by the U.S. airstrikes have since recaptured Sinjar but the need for the care provided by the orphanage continues. VOA’s Kawa Omar filed this report narrated by Rob Raffaele.
    Video

    Video Re-Opening Old Wounds in a Bullet-Riddled Cultural Landmark

    A cultural landmark before Lebanon’s civil war transformed it into a nest of snipers, Beirut’s ‘Yellow House’ is once again set to play a crucial role in the city.  Built in a neo-Ottoman style in the 1920s, in September it is set to be re-opened as a ‘memory museum’ - its bullet-riddled walls and bunkered positions overlooking the city’s notorious ‘Green Line’ maintained for posterity. John Owens reports from Beirut.
    Video

    Video Brexit Resounds in US Presidential Contest

    Britain’s decision to leave the European Union is resounding in America’s presidential race. As VOA’s Michael Bowman reports, Republican presumptive nominee Donald Trump sees Britain’s move as an affirmation of his campaign’s core messages, while Democrat Hillary Clinton sees the episode as further evidence that Trump is unfit to be president.
    Video

    Video NASA Juno Spacecraft, Nearing Jupiter, to Shed Light on Gas Giant

    After a five-year journey, the spacecraft Juno is nearing its destination, the giant planet Jupiter, where it will enter orbit and start sending data back July 4th. As Mike O'Sullivan reports from Pasadena, California, the craft will pierce the veil of Jupiter's dense cloud cover to reveal its mysteries.
    Video

    Video Orlando Shooting Changes Debate on Gun Control

    It’s been nearly two weeks since the largest mass shooting ever in the United States. Despite public calls for tighter gun control laws, Congress is at an impasse. Democratic lawmakers resorted to a 1960s civil rights tactic to portray their frustration. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti explains how the Orlando, Florida shooting is changing the debate.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora