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Island and the Pipeline. Gotland Facing the Geopolitical Power of Nord Stream.


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In 2005, the Nord Stream Consortium launched a pipeline project with the intention to bring Russian natural gas to Germany across the Baltic Sea. Although this raised crucial issues of Russia-EU-Sweden relations on security, energy and the environment the focus of this report is on the Gotland local government response to the Nord Stream approach, thus illustrating the need for a transversal human geography-political studies perspective. Situated in the heart of the Baltic Sea, and in line with the established Swedish governmental “remiss” procedure of commission and referral for consideration the Gotland authority was requested by the Swedish Government to make a statement about the pipeline. However, before the government was even asked for permission the Nord Stream Consortium with Russian Gazprom as the major shareholder turned to the Gotland authority with an offer they after some conflictridden twists and turns, manifested in three policy lines as described in the report, decided not to refuse. A narrative inspired analytical approach is applied to dissect the more or less contradictory standpoints and legitimating arguments posed by the actors in the political process preceding the local authority decision to accept the Nord Stream offer, i.e. the local scale actors were provoked to take a stand on a big issue raised by a huge multinational company. By in detail examining the local political repercussions of the energy project the case study contributes to a trans-disciplinary understanding of multi-scalar/multi-level governance. In an epilogue the report also highlights the sudden turnaround of the local narrative in autumn 2016 when Gotland Regional Authority was on the brink of making a deal with Nord Stream II. The turnaround flashlights the geopolitical position of the island in the crossfire of interests concerning the Baltic Sea Region. Keywords: Baltic Sea, Gotland, Nord Stream, local government, multiscalar governance, narrative, legitimation, natural gas pipeline.
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Centre for Urban and Regional Research (CUReS)
Report 71
Island and the Pipeline
Gotland Facing the Geopolitical Power of Nord Stream
© Karin Edberg, Anna-Lisa Fransson and Ingemar Elander, 2017
Title: Island and the Pipeline. Gotland Facing the Geopolitical Power
of Nord Stream.
Publisher: Örebro University 2017
Print: Örebro University, Repro March/2017
ISSN 1653-1531
ISBN 978-91-87789-13-7
Karin Edberg, Anna-Lisa Fransson and Ingemar Elander (2017): Island and
the Pipeline Gotland Facing the Geopolitical Power of Nord Stream.
Centre for Urban and Regional Research (CUReS), Report 71 (2017)
In 2005, the Nord Stream Consortium launched a pipeline project with
the intention to bring Russian natural gas to Germany across the Baltic
Sea. Although this raised crucial issues of Russia-EU-Sweden relations
on security, energy and the environment the focus of this report is on the
Gotland local government response to the Nord Stream approach, thus
illustrating the need for a transversal human geography-political studies
perspective. Situated in the heart of the Baltic Sea, and in line with the
established Swedish governmental “remiss” procedure of commission
and referral for consideration the Gotland authority was requested by
the Swedish Government to make a statement about the pipeline. How-
ever, before the government was even asked for permission the Nord
Stream Consortium with Russian Gazprom as the major shareholder
turned to the Gotland authority with an offer they after some conflict-
ridden twists and turns, manifested in three policy lines as described in
the report, decided not to refuse. A narrative inspired analytical ap-
proach is applied to dissect the more or less contradictory standpoints
and legitimating arguments posed by the actors in the political process
preceding the local authority decision to accept the Nord Stream offer,
i.e. the local scale actors were provoked to take a stand on a big issue
raised by a huge multinational company. By in detail examining the local
political repercussions of the energy project the case study contributes to
a trans-disciplinary understanding of multi-scalar/multi-level govern-
ance. In an epilogue the report also highlights the sudden turnaround of
the local narrative in autumn 2016 when Gotland Regional Authority
was on the brink of making a deal with Nord Stream II. The turnaround
flashlights the geopolitical position of the island in the crossfire of inter-
ests concerning the Baltic Sea Region.
Keywords: Baltic Sea, Gotland, Nord Stream, local government, multi-
scalar governance, narrative, legitimation, natural gas pipeline.
This report is an extended version of a study by Karin Edberg and Anna-
Lisa Fransson, based on extensive fieldwork by the two at Gotland during
20122013. As a sub-author, Ingemar Elander has contributed some over-
all contextual information, and drawn attention to the sudden turnaround
of the local policy narrative when approached by Nord Stream II (the epi-
logue section). We are grateful to all interviewees who kindly shared their
stories with us.
About the authors
Karin Edberg is a PhD student in sociology at Södertörn University. Her
PhD thesis in progress concerns how local actors frame contemporary
energy challenges when they substantialize in the form of infrastructural
siting, for instance the Nord Stream gas pipeline or wind power. The mul-
ti-level and complex nature of the framing is of particular interest.
Anna-Lisa Fransson is a PhD student in politics at Örebro University. Her
PhD thesis in progress concerns multi-scalar, multi-level politics around
the Nord Stream gas pipeline project, and takes a narrative approach to
the project with its load of tensions concerning the Baltic Sea environment,
EU-Russia energy relations, and national security.
Ingemar Elander is a senior professor in politics at Örebro University, and
Mälardalen University. He is principal supervisor of Anna-Lisa Fransson.
INTRODUCTION .................................................................................... 7
LOCAL/REGIONAL AUTHORITY IN CONTEXT .............................. 11
METHOD READING STORY AS NARRATIVE ................................ 15
SETTING AND BEGINNING ................................................................ 17
COMPLICATION GOING LOCAL .................................................... 20
Forming three policy lines ....................................................................... 23
LEGITIMATION ARGUMENTS ........................................................... 26
Knowledge .............................................................................................. 26
Emotions ................................................................................................. 27
Local economic rationality ...................................................................... 28
National security and the environment ................................................... 28
Extensive municipal competence ............................................................. 29
Limited municipal competence ................................................................ 30
Fairness and democratic consistency ....................................................... 30
Contracting or extending the frame? ....................................................... 31
SOLUTION SETTING THE PORT DEAL .......................................... 33
Towards a new equilibrium? ................................................................... 36
CONCLUSIONS ..................................................................................... 39
The limits of narrative power .................................................................. 41
EPILOGUE NORD STREAM II IN QUESTION ................................. 42
REFERENCES ........................................................................................ 48
APPENDIX I Route of Nord Stream Gas Pipeline through the Baltic Sea
from Vyborg, Russia to Lubmin/Greifswald, Germany. ......................... 58
APPENDIX II Interviews (conducted at Gotland 2012-2013) ............. 59
APPENDIX III The distribution of council seats on political parties
in the Region Gotland Council 2007-2018 ............................................ 60
APPENDIX IV Nord Stream II on The Nord Stream II project ........... 61
Figures and table
Figure 1. Reading the story as narrative the analytical model and
the three policy lines indicated.
Table 1. Actors and legitimation arguments according to the three policy
When referred to in the running text interviewed persons listed in Appendix
II are referred to as R1, R2 etc.
The three local policy lines are referred to as PL1, PL2 and PL3.
In September 2005, the Nord Stream I 1 gas pipeline was launched under the
name North European Gas Pipeline, with the aim of bringing Russian gas to
Germany across the Baltic Sea (see map, Appendix I)2. In the midst of alarms
and gatherings regarding the poor health of the sea, the application of the Nord
Stream I gas pipeline was considered, reviewed over several rounds and even-
tually approved by the Swedish Government. Although 40 percent of the Nord
Stream I route was planned to run through Sweden´s exclusive economic zone,
the government expressed no interest in buying and using the gas. However,
according to international law, government permission for the project was re-
quired, and it turned out to be based on an official interpretation exclusively in
terms of environmental arguments (Langlet 2014). As part of an Environmental
Impact Assessment (EIA), a remiss was sent out asking for comments from gov-
ernmental agencies, local authorities and NGOs.3 After several application
1 We use the term Nord Stream I to refer to the pipeline project finished in 2011, whereas
the second one is labelled Nord Stream II, which the Nord Stream Consortium plans to
be implemented during 2017 2019. When specifically referring to the company as such
we sometimes use the terms Nord Stream Consortium or Nord Stream AG.
2 Basic official information about the pipeline is available in a fact sheet on the
internet (Nord Stream 2016), and via this site, lots of other information given by the
consortium is also available. The pipeline project was initially promoted by former
German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder and Russian President Vladimir Putin. Schrö-
der was appointed chairman of the Nord Stream I board ten years ago and was
recently given with the same position in the Nord Stream II board (Salzen 2016).
Nord Stream I and Nord Stream II are legally two separate companies. The Russian
majority shareholder OAO Gazprom holds a 51 percent stake in Nord Stream I,
with leading German energy companies Wintershall Holding GmbH and E.ON SE
holding 15.5 percent each and the Dutch natural gas infrastructure company N.V.
Nederlandse Gasunie and the leading French energy provider GDF SUEZ SA each
holding a 9 percent stake (Nord Stream 2016). Nord Stream II AG, however, is
owned equally by the Dutch Gazprom Gerosgaz Holdings B.V. [Besloten ven-
nootschap met beperkte aansprakelijkheid/Public Limited Liability Company], an
affiliate of PJSC [Public Joint Stock Company] Gazprom, and PJSC Gazprom. “An
ownership structure of equal EU and Russian interests in the project is envisaged,
which reflects the significance of this new infrastructure for Europe’s future energy
supply needs” (Nord Stream II 2016b).
3 The unique Swedish governmental process of commission and referral for consid-
eration [remiss] “underpins a close and systematic contact mechanism between the
government and the third sector. It is the default way of dealing with legislation,
while also creating knowledge and procedures within third sector organizations that
allow them to participate in and influence the policy-making process” (Olsson et al.
2009, 169; italics in original).
rounds, the Swedish government finally decided to grant permission on 5 No-
vember 2009 (Fransson 2014a).
As the strategy and narrative used by the Swedish Government to make
the pipeline possible have recently been analysed by one of the authors
(Fransson 2014a), in this report, we will focus upon the role of local gov-
ernmentthe local authority of Gotland island4in the process of finally
opening the door to the Nord Stream I Consortium and accepting the con-
struction of a gas pipeline. In a world increasingly characterized by multi-
scalar, multi-level, and transnational governance, local politics is “influ-
enced by courses of events at other societal levels, events that contribute to
the formation of a contextual setting where the concrete actions are staged
and played out” (Granberg 2008: 372; see also Bulkeley et al. 2014; Gus-
tavsson, Elander & Lundmark 2009). Or, as formulated by Lejano et al.
(2013: 173):
Through stories, narrators link themselves and their actions to a perceived
larger system. Through narrative we get a sense of how the whole is deter-
mined by the actors and perspectives of the parts – literally, how the plot
emerges from events and the actions of characters.
Arguably, the case of the Gotland local authority facing the mighty Nord
Stream I Consortium on the gas pipeline issue is an illustrative case in this
respect, not least when considering the strong muscles of the Consortium,
which comprises the Russian Gazprom as the major shareholder (51 per
cent) and other shareholders situated in Germany, the Netherlands, and
Situated in the heart of the Baltic Sea Region and highly dependent on
the security and health of the sea, the local authority of Gotland was one
actor requested by the Swedish Government to make a statement about the
prospected pipeline. However, even before permission by the government
was granted or even requested the Nord Stream Consortium turned to
the Gotland local authority with an offer they, after conflict-ridden twists
and turns, finally accepted. The offer consisted of a million-euro investment
4 In the report, we use the political-administrative terms ‘local government’ and ‘lo-
cal authority’ interchangeably. For the period before 2011, we use the term ‘munic-
ipality’ [kommun] when the island of Gotland as a basic geopolitical entity is refer-
enced. After that, we use the since-then official term Region Gotland or the Regional
in Slite5, a small community with a worn-down harbour on the northeast
coast of the island. The offer was such that in the case that permission for
the pipeline was granted, the developer would have exclusive and free access
to the port for storage and shipping during construction work on the pipe-
line. However, in the case of rejection, the company would nevertheless
stand by its offer and allow access to the equipment of the port, though it
would be of no use to the company. The only restraining requirement in the
developer’s offer to the local authority was a prompt answer. As Nord
Stream wanted the harbour to be in use by the time that (possible) permis-
sion was granted, it required an answer from the local authorities ahead of
the national decision regarding permission. After many turns, the complex
issue was managed by the local authority in favour of the harbour deal,
although it was also reluctant about the gas pipeline project.
On the surface, the issue might look quite simple, following an outright
rational logic. Why should the local authority refuse an offer by Nord
Stream to receive a renovated and expanded harbour in the Slite commu-
nity? However, a closer look at the local policy process reveals a pattern
that was complex and often contradictory, including environmental as well
as geopolitical concerns. The aim of this report is to understand how the
local authority, as displayed in its narration, managed to legitimate the clos-
ing of a local harbour deal with the Russian Gazprom dominated the Nord
Stream Consortium while still criticizing the construction of a nearby trans-
national gas pipeline that was dependent on the same deal, i.e., to have it
both ways.
By analysing the policy process along the logic of a narrative, the study
will reconstruct the string of events as told in interviews, municipal debates
and written documents. The reconstruction of such events will account for
local actors’ positioning in three policy lines/narratives and identify the ar-
guments used by the actors to legitimize their own positioning. In doing so,
we reconstruct a comprehensive narrative about the Gotland municipality
harbour and the Nord Stream I gas pipeline, corresponding to what some
narrative-orientated scholars call a fabula, which is “reconstructed by the
analyst and is found wholly only in the reconstruction” (Lejano et al. 2013:
75). What is the policy narrative (the fabula) read and re-constructed
through three local authority policy lines that led up to the harbour agree-
5 A semi-urban community with approximately 1500 inhabitants in 2010 (SCB
ment and the Gotland municipality’s official positioning in the pipeline mat-
ter? How and by what arguments were the three positions narrated and
legitimized in the process leading up to the final decision?
Following this introduction, we sketch the geopolitical setting within
which the Gotland political process took place. The topic of the third sec-
tion will be our narratively inspired methodological approach. Then, we go
section by section through the pipeline case as told by three different and
partly overlapping policy lines, from the setting/beginning via solution to
the ending equilibrium. In a concluding section, we reflect on our findings
in the broader framework of multi-scalar/multi-level and transnational re-
lations with focus on the importance of security, energy and the environ-
ment in the Baltic Sea Region. We finally add an epilogue highlighting the
dramatic turnaround of policy positions in front of the planned Nord
Stream II in autumn 2016, which mainly occurred because of a Swedish re-
interpretation of Russian foreign and energy policies in relation to the Baltic
Region and the EU.
Gotland is the largest island of Sweden, administratively comprising one
single municipality [kommun] and about 57 400 inhabitants (SCB 2015).6
‘Municipality' is the common legal label of all 290 basic, local, self-govern-
ing units in Sweden, regardless of their size and geographical location.
Elected by the people every fourth year, the municipal council is the basic
representative body. Gotland municipality is unique in the sense that it also
has the responsibilities and tasks associated with a regional county council
[landsting], and since 2011, it has been officially called Region Gotland
(SKL 2016, Region Gotland 2016). Obviously, the local/regional authority
has a precarious geopolitical position in the crossfire of interests concerning
the Baltic Sea Region (see map, Appendix I).
The Nord Stream pipelines raise issues of multi-scalar/multi-level, multi-
jurisdictional, and transnational governance in the Baltic Sea Region, in-
cluding military security, energy, and the environment as three policy areas
of outstanding relevance (Gilek et al. 2016; Jonter & Viktorov 2011; Kern
& Loffelsend 2004). Cutting through the notoriously sensitive and ecologi-
cally challenged Baltic Sea, the pipeline constitutes an immensely extended
infrastructure for natural gas to satisfy West European energy demand but
also to prolong European use of and dependence on fossil fuels to be deliv-
ered to Europe for the next 50 to 80 years despite priorities for CO2 reduc-
tion (Bouzarovski & Konieczny 2010; Karm 2008; Whist 2008; Larsson
2007). The gas originates from Siberia, making Russia an interdependent
trading partner and empowered actor on the European political scene. Ger-
many and other European states essentially rely on Russia for their gas sup-
plies (Malmborg 2014).
6 Local government in Sweden has a strong constitutional-legal foundation, backed
up by a set of laws regulating relations with the central government and the citizens.
It has its own fiscal rights, and its political organization is based on direct and pro-
portional elections, thus giving local government political legitimacy in a more qual-
ified sense than a purely de-concentrated state administration. In addition, local gov-
ernment administrators and field-workers have strong professional competence.
Overall, local governments in Sweden have a broad set of social and infrastructural
functions and dispose of enough crucial resources to qualify as a local self-govern-
ment (Montin & Granberg 2013; Elander 1991).
As the major share of ownership is held by the state-owned Russian gas
company Gazprom, the Nord Stream pipelines have become a substantial
source of geopolitical tension in the region (Bouzarovski & Konieczny
2010). The ongoing conflict with Ukraine makes the gas pipeline loaded
with even more political gunpowder. However, despite fears of increasing
energy dependence on Russia, the rationale behind the Nord Stream pipe-
lines has also been described as an issue of mutual interest between energy
providers and consumers, i.e., to “guarantee Europe’s energy security and
the formation of reliable, strategic partnership between Russia and the EU
in the Baltic Sea Region” (Lagutina 2011: 74). In line with this, there is also
an argument raised that “it is too simplistic to view Russia only through a
geopolitical lens [….] Moscow has made good use of legal and technocratic
instruments, which fall into the market approach, without embracing the
market approach at the paradigmatic level” (Romanova 2016: 871). Re-
flecting on the balancing of rights and interests in “transboundary transit
pipelines”, the legal scholar Langlet states that Nord Stream is “fundamen-
tally about connecting Western European consumers with Russian natural
gas fields”. Notably, the pipelines are operated and monitored from a con-
trol centre situated in Zug, Switzerland, meaning that Nord Stream AG “is
to be regarded as a national of Switzerland and subject to Swiss jurisdiction
in accordance with the nationality principle” (Langlet 2014: 980; Fransson
2014a). However, the Nord Stream pipelines have raised not only issues in
terms of energy and geopolitical security but also serious concerns in terms
of threats to the environment.
After half a century of steadily failing health, the UN International Mar-
itime Organisation, in 2005, designated the Baltic Sea a Particularly Sensi-
tive Sea Area (PSSA), creating possibilities for extended environmental pro-
tection and placing the Baltic among the top ten most threatened waters in
the world, alongside the Great Barrier Reef in Australia, Florida Keys in the
US and the Galapagos Archipelago in Ecuador (Fransson et al. 2011; Gov-
ernment Commission Report 2008: 76; Uggla 2007). A Swedish narrative
painting the Baltic Sea in a state of deterioration is well documented over
half a decade, in official documents (MEPC 2010; Government Commission
Report 2008; HELCOM 2007;), media (Nilsson 2011; Hammargren 1985;
Dahl 1955), scientific works (Kern 2011; Hansson 2009: Räsänen & Laak-
konen 2008; SEPA 2004; Durinck et al. 1994), popular culture and social
The company itself described the Nord Stream pipeline as an “undersea
highway” for natural gas (Nord Stream 2010)7 The project idea, however,
flew in the face of previous conservation efforts, as laying a gas pipeline in-
volved a range of activities not recommended for the sea and its wildlife. Det-
onating mines, dumping Nazi German chemical weapons, and blasting,
dredging, and filling the seabed to accommodate the pipes were activities that
would stir up phosphorus and toxins embedded in the seafloor sediment and
disturb and confuse sensitive wildlife (SEPA 2009). Because of the sea’s slow
rate of circulation, they would stay in the water column for tens of years,
adding to the already poor state of the water (Myrberg & Andrejev 2006).
When Sweden was chairing the European Union (EU) in November 2009
and four years after the announcement of the project - notably despite re-
maining concerns by some of its agencies - the Swedish Government ap-
proved of Nord Stream’s gas pipeline route, which extends 480 kilometres
along the seabed of the Swedish economic zone in the Baltic Sea. The argu-
ment for approval was that after years of consultation and several rounds
of environmental impact assessments, all environmental requirements had
been met (Fransson 2014a; Fransson et al. 2011). Construction on the first
pipeline started in April 2010, and by 2012, a second parallel line was in
7 There is no mistaking of the strong energy and geopolitical load of the project (and
its potential follower Nord Stream II) in the following statement of the Managing
Director Mattias Warnig in the foreword of an extensive, official description of the
project: “We have built something that could well reach beyond many of our own
lifespans, and we have made a contribution toward Europe’s long-term energy secu-
rity. The demand for gas in Europe will clearly continue to grow. If Europe wishes
to compete globally, it will not succeed without gas and, in particular, not without
gas from Russia. Nord Stream is Russia’s promise, welded in steel, to deliver the
most important transition fuel for today, tomorrow, and years to come. These pipe-
lines represent a means for the EU to create a competitive and sustainable energy
mix” (Warnig 2014: 5; our italics). We will highlight these aspects in our epilogue.
operation8. At the time of writing (November-December 2016), the notify-
ing process for a third and fourth pipeline, called Nord Stream II, is ongo-
ing, with completion calculated to occur at the end of 2019.9
8 The twin pipelines, which have been operational since 2011 and 2012 respec-
tively, have the capacity to transport a combined total of about 55 bcm of gas a
year that's enough to satisfy the energy demand of more than 26 million Euro-
pean households. Nord Stream has designed the pipelines to operate for at least
50 years”. (Source: Nord Stream, Who we are. Online: http://www.nord- [Accessed: 2016-04-07]
9 However, as will be highlighted in the epilogue section of this report, Nord Stream
II has become strongly contested in “high politics” owing to Russian aggression in
Crimea and Ukraine and its use of natural gas as an economic and political instru-
ment not just in the Baltic Sea Region.
Politics, however defined, is in one way or another an activity that creates
meaning in the course of an event. In a self-reflecting article, the much cited
scholar in governance studies Rod W. Rhodes argues in favour of
[…] a shift of topos from institutions to meanings in action. It explains shift-
ing patterns of governance by focusing on the actors´ own interpretations of
their beliefs and practices. The everyday practices arise from agents whose
beliefs and actions are informed by traditions and expressed in stories [….]
It reveals the contingency and contestability of narratives. (Rhodes 2007,
1259; italics in original)
The use of narrative is based on theories claiming that narrative, or story,
can not only describe but also contribute to the explanation of processes of
public administration and governance (Fransson 2014a; Bevir 2011;
Rhodes 2011; Andrews, Squire & Tamboukou 2008; Robertson 2005;
Czarniawska 2004). Following the French structuralist Todorov (1977
[1971]), in this report, we methodologically depart from a traditional struc-
ture of a story, the plot, which builds on a sequential order of events, where
one step (stage or story element) leads to another (Fransson 2014a;
Riessman 2008; Labov & Waletsky 1967). The analytical act of reproduc-
ing the policy process will be referred to as emplotment (White 1973). The
elements are analytically connected in a sequence that will now be presented
and then guide our empirical analysis.
Setting, or orientation, describes the scene and its prerequisites. It an-
swers the question “who is this story about, and what is the scene like where
the story will unfold?” (Patterson 2008: 25). We will refer to setting also as
the “beginning equilibrium” (Czarniawska 2004: 85). Complication is the
main sequence or the “spine” of the narrative (Patterson 2008: 26). It de-
scribes an obstruction, a disturbing force that upheavals equilibrium. In the
Gotland local process, this is where a conflict of interest emerges and par-
allel policy stories with different understandings of the problem are told.
Solution is the climax of the narrative in this case, the policy outcome in
terms of a local authority decision. The solution is followed by an ending
equilibrium, i.e., a balanced condition that is not marked by turbulence.
Needless to say, the narrative, or fabula, told by us as analysts is a construc-
tion, and there is always “an act of interpretation involved. Even the barest
narrative account requires interpretation on the part of the bearer” (Lejano
et al. 2013: 74).
Organizing parallel narratives in a critical stage of the policy process un-
der study gives us three distinct stories or policy lines in terms of under-
standing. The policy lines are based on different actors’ positioning and le-
gitimation of positions, as framed by the port decision in relation to the
pipeline issue. To understand the process, we supplement the frame exten-
sion strategy, as explained by Snow et al. (1986; see also Verloo & Lom-
bardo 2007), with its counterpart, the frame contraction strategy, indicating
that an actor may sometimes tighten the frame to further reduce the scope
of the issue and exclude particular consequences. The former makes the
frame more inclusive and spacious while also less precise (Eriksson 2011),
whereas the latter narrows the policy issue and tightens the frame. For ex-
ample, when caught between competing and parallel stories on different
scales, local authorities may contract their frame to be able to decide on
complicated issues (Fraser 2008).
For our study, we conducted interviews with eight local politicians and
four civil servants, all of whom had taken an explicit stand in the policy
process leading up to the final statement by the local council. The interviews
were conducted face to face in Gotland during 2012-2013. All interviews
were recorded and, similar to the municipality debates, transcribed, ana-
lysed, and cross-checked by the authors. All interviewees are presented in
Appendix II. Well aware of the uncertainties about asking people to tell
‘what really happened’; our aim was not really to ask about that but rather
to encourage the interviewees to reconstruct their memories in terms of at-
titudes with regard to the Nord Stream I proposal. In this way, we adopt a
pragmatic view, acknowledging that “a research interview is an interaction
between participant and researcher, and this interaction will shape the form
and features of the data generated” (Yeo et al. 2014: 180).
Supported by official documents and recorded debates, we interpret and
re-produce the policy process as a sequential chronology of a story consist-
ing of three different policy lines (see figure 1 and table 1 below). This is
our reconstruction of the local gas pipeline process (our fabula). Included
in the analysis are also two political debates performed in the municipal
council in 2008 and broadcasted on Swedish Radio Gotland10. In Appendix
10 For details, see the reference list, under the subtitle “Gotland Municipality official
III, we show the distribution of council seats for political parties during
According to the scholar of planning John Forester (2016: 169),
we all know that whatever we might be able to achieve or accomplish will
‘depend on the context’, but especially when we are talking about spatial,
social or political change, it seems all the more important to be clear just
what about ‘the context’ actually matters.
So, how do we specify the context in the narrative regarding Nord Stream I
with respect to the Island of Gotland? Located in the heart of the Baltic Sea,
Gotland is “the natural venue” [den naturliga mötesplatsen] of the region
(as described by the municipality itself; Gotland Municipality 2008b). The
island saw world wars up close and was situated right in the space that
divided the Great Powers during the cold war. In many aspects, it is part of
the Post-Soviet sphere, with tensions related to “the East” in fresh memory
and repeatedly noted by many Gotlanders.
Widely considered a forerunner in environmental policy and one of the
most ecologically modernized countries in the world (Hysing 2014; Lidskog
& Elander 2012; Lafferty & Meadowcroft 2000)11, both left- and right
wing orientated Swedish Governments have expressed a special concern for
the Baltic Sea that is deeply rooted in society and visible even in Swedish
popular culture (Fransson 2014b). As a self-acclaimed eco-friendly munici-
pality, Gotland itself has been building an identity as an advocate of wind
power and the use of non-fossil fuels (Gotland Municipality 2014; 2008a;
2008b). Heavily dependent on tourism and directly affected by changes con-
cerning the water, Gotland constitutes an important voice nationally and an
advisory party in governmental commissions concerning the protection of
the Baltic waters (SEPA 2009). This was also the case when the Baltic Sea
gas pipeline entered the agenda.
11 Taking into account emissions from the production of goods and services in other
countries for end use in Sweden (import), as well as emissions from the domestic
production of goods and services for end uses abroad (export), the picture is not
quite that positive in terms of the country´s contribution to the amount of CO2
emitted (Gustavsson & Elander 2016).
When plans for a natural gas pipeline through the Baltic were announced
in the mid-2000s, Gotland turned out to be both close to the intended route
and close to the action itself. Though most politicians, both from the oppo-
sition and the majority (Appendix III), declare that they were not made
aware of the pipeline until the developer Nord Stream years later was found
to have an interest in the municipality, a handful of actors had heard of or
reacted to the plans years earlier.
In 2005, when I first got engaged in the [gas pipeline] issue, it was out of a
minor notice in the paper stating that this [project] was underway. [I]
thought it was interesting and made some research and realized that it was a
non-topical issue in Sweden, whereas I thought it was huge. And then […] I
think I started to write about it and to bring the issue to the Green Party on
a national [level]. (R1)
National media at the time noted the geopolitical imprint of the pipeline
on the Baltic Region and largely concerned the natural gas that was to be
transported between Russia and the EU, whereas local politics framed the
issue as constituting a highly uncertain risk to the marine environment. The
Social Democratic former chairman of the Gotland Municipal Council sug-
gested that
[w]ith [an environmental] focus, a Swedish position must surely be directly
critical of the planned gas pipeline. (…) The risks to fisheries and marine
environmental consequences are not fully known but significant. (…) Any-
way, I strongly disagree with this venture in the environment of our Baltic
Sea. (Lundgren 2006)
With national and municipal elections in the offing, a Centre Party poli-
tician in opposition submitted a proposal12 to the municipal council sug-
gesting that the municipality to take action against the proposed seabed
pipeline. The authenticity of the call was strongly questioned by other poli-
ticians, who called it “vote-catching” (R1, R10; Municipal Council 2008a),
and the author itself, who later developed a more complex standpoint on
the pipeline, excusing it as “a lack of knowledge” in a later interview (R6).
Vote-catching or not, the Centre Party proposal and the Social Democratic
statement show that early local positioning on both sides of the left-right
12 A written proposal by one or several individual members of parliament or a lo-
cal/regional council is officially labelled a ‘motion’ in Swedish.
division was negative concerning the pipeline plans with respect to the
We will diversify the opening scene with a municipal official’s narrative
selected from the interviews, which reveals who possibly learned about the
pipeline plans first.
I was in Brussels quite early in the 2000s, and it was actually the case that
this project, Nord Stream and South Stream, were priority energy projects in
EU planning. And that’s where I first encountered it. […] When could that
have been? 2002-2003 something. (R11)
This former administrative port manager thus claims that he, already in
the early 2000s, saw the connection between Gotland and the pipeline pro-
ject. The interviewee, who was to become a vital key player in the port deal
and a driving force in the process, further pointed out that he “all the time
claimed that in some way, we on Gotland have to get some benefits from
this pipeline project” (R11). The official advanced to technical administra-
tive manager, a position that is referred to by all municipal interviewees as
important for local development in general.
A newly recruited Green Party politician became an active opponent, self-
reporting to be the initiator of activating the party on the pipeline issue at
the national level. Another politician who became a strong local opponent,
though with a conservative party affiliation (Moderaterna in Swedish), re-
calls the first encounter with the pipeline plans.
Where was it? I read newspapers on the Net. I can’t recall where I got the
information from, but I reacted immediately when I got the news. It might
have been due to my national security interest, and because that already then,
you could tell that Russia was heading the wrong way. There wasn’t more
democracy but less when Putin took over the presidency…. (R2)
Environmental and energy matters are of great concern, thus making nat-
ural gas delivery a hot issue in the relations between EU member states and
Russia (Schmidt-Feltzmann 2011). However, the statement in the quote
above (R2) was at the time regarded as quixotic and a caricature of “fear
of the Russians”. Subsequent events in Ukraine, however, certainly throw
another light on the quote (Götz 2015). Thus, the outcome of the story is
not only based on a certain place-based context but also strongly time de-
pendent. Another Conservative Party politician and later a distinct propo-
nent of the pipeline was also informed of the plans at an early stage.
I read German media, so I knew what was in store. It had been European
news long before it was actualized here. (R3)
In comparison to foreign media, the transnational pipeline plans did not
emerge in earnest in Gotland media until 2006-2007 and came to a peek in
2008 (Edberg, PhD thesis in progress)
In 2007, the pipeline was partially reframed in the public debate because of
its local implications. During the construction phase, the developers needed
five shipping ports and marshalling yards around the Baltic one of which
was the Slite port13. Local authorities thus suddenly had to address the gas
pipeline issue on several fronts and scales: as a representative of the local
population, as a consultative body for national authorities that now re-
quested an official local standpoint, and as a potential harbour renter con-
ducting business with a transnational corporation. In terms of our analytical
model (figure 1), the local dimension (a harbour) is identified as a bridge,
transitioning the policy process - and thus our reconstructed story (fabula)
- from the beginning/equilibrium into the complication phase, where the
pipeline issue now had to be managed on multiple scales and levels.
Figure 1. Reading the story as narrative the analytical framework and the
three identified policy lines visualized.
13 The other ones being Karlskrona (Sweden), Kotka and Hanko (Finland) and Muk-
ran (Germany) (Nord Stream 2010).
Each cluster of positioning, or policy line, includes a common narrative,
a common understanding of the issue at stake. In every line, however, there
is a variety of legitimating grounds of how and why the actor has taken its
position. How the policy lines relate to each other is illustrated in the figure.
A dashed border between Line 1 and Line 2 denotes that the two groups
have a large part of their political viewpoints in common, except that actors
of Line 1 are outspokenly in favour of the pipeline. During the course of
time, some actors will move in between the two groups. Lines 1 and 3 ex-
pand the framing by including transnational dimensions, which we will re-
fer to as frame extension, whereas for Line 2, the political majority and the
established opposition call for a contraction of the frame.
Nord Stream requested to use Slite harbour for shipping and storing for
future construction work. The harbour is strategically located for transport,
trade and infrastructural reasons (Appendix I) and was formerly used for
ferry traffic to and from mainland Sweden, Finland and the Baltic States. In
the mid-2000s, the technical administration closed the port for renovation,
and at the time of the Nord Stream offer, it was set aside because of a lack
of municipal economic means (R11, R12, R14). Thus, the equipment and
preparation needed to enable rental for the extraordinary customer were
much too expensive for the municipality to accommodate, and it initially
had to decline the offer. At this time, the technical committee14 of the mu-
nicipality handled the affair. A Centre Party member of the committee re-
calls the time:
We arrived quite fast in the political discussion (…); it isn’t possible; this
money doesn’t exist, investing SEK 70 million [EUR 7.4 million] or wherever
we were at the time (…); it didn’t exist. So, it was “no thanks” again, back
to Nord Stream. (R8)
14 The municipal (after 2011 regional) committees [nämnder], which are equivalent
to local/regional political departments, are assemblies of elected politicians who are
politically responsible for specific administrative tasks. Decisions of smaller scope
may be taken in the committees without involving the Gotland Municipal Council,
called Gotland Regional Council [regionfullmäktige] after 2011, as all parties are
commonly also represented in the committees. The chairman of each committee is
normally from the majority party or parties. Economically, the technical administra-
tion composes the largest unit of the municipal organization, which is responsible
for public buildings, ports, maintenance, etc. (Gotland in Figures. Facts and Statis-
tics. 2015).
To solve the situation and enable business, an “unusual offer” was pre-
That’s really when they came and brought this other discussion (…) if they
could go in and help in any way. That’s when this quite (…) brilliant idea,
or calculus, arrived. (R8)
“The calculus” or “unusual offer” refers to is the collaboration between
the manager of the municipal technical administration and Nord Stream.
The company would pay for the renovation of the harbour, but the money
would be administrated as rent charged in advance.
Yes, it [the turn of the discussion] was when they came in and said that ‘we
want to finance the reconstruction of the port’. (R2)
And I guess it was me who came up with the solution that you could charge
as you would do normally; [money] will be advanced and used directly into
a quay project, in which we are renovating the dock. (R11)
There was then an attempt to quietly close the deal in the technical com-
mittee (Municipal Technical Committee 2007). It was made so discretely
that the deciding members of the committee were not informed about the
affair beforehand, and they were shown the contract on the very same day
that they were to decide on the deal, with the estimated total sum omitted
(Municipal Executive Board 2008). This modus operandi was largely criti-
cized by the Green Party and by individual members of other parties as in-
voking a democratic deficit. The procedure was appealed, and reports to
the county court were filed with reference to the distinction of the deal,
meaning that an affair of this size should be democratically anchored in the
municipal council.
At this stage of the pipeline and harbour process (in 2007/2008), all pre-
viously uninformed local politicians learned about the developer Nord
Stream, the pipeline through the Baltic and the harbour offer. The offer was
framed as a local infrastructural once-in-a-lifetime offer by the technical ad-
ministration and committee. The need for a backup port for daily ferries
was tangible, but the request from the pipeline developer brought horizons
for more far-reaching visions such as re-establishing a ferry service to other
Baltic countries. This and prospects for local work opportunities were often
repeated in the interviews.
Two elements, which will repeatedly intertwine, were now at hand for
the local authority. One was to provide an official statement about the pipe-
line project to the national government. The other was both to decide on
the port deal (which still lacked a formal permit) in the due political instance
and to decide whether the harbour deal could and should be closed even if
the municipality still disagreed about the pipeline. The tangible local bene-
fits that the transnational project would involve had an effect on the local
statement to the national government and might even be regarded to con-
stitute a case of ‘bribery’ offered by the Nord Stream Consortium. Thus, the
complication stage is characterized by the geopolitical encounter between
the transnational, national and local scales and levels and their respective
institutional spokesmen. It was a delicate situation. Local politicians found
themselves obliged to consider the two issues not only separately but also
in relation to each other. There was great political confusion. Some actors
changed position for pragmatic reasons, whereas others reinforced or nu-
anced their positions. Standing on what we in analytical terms call a
bridge, there was now no return.
Forming three policy lines
The issue(s) at stake cut through political alliances and party lines, making
the classical left-right division futile. Instead, three parallel policy lines or
narratives can be discerned/reconstructed, based on different understand-
ings of the complication. Notably, these “lines” never existed as stable co-
alitions in local politics, as party affiliations were not strictly followed. They
are analytically constructed policy lines based on arguments and statements
selected from documents and narration in the interviews. The lines, based
on actors’ communicated understanding of the two issues (pipeline and
port), are developed to scrutinize how local positioning took place.
A first divide concerns what constitutional right the local authority had
to decide on either of the issues. Were the port and the pipeline to be man-
aged as associated phenomena or to be handled separately? Depending on
the answers, two positions appeared: (a) Those who considered that the
pipeline issue should not at all be handled by the local authority; i.e., that it
was outside the municipal competence not obliging the municipality to take
a stand. Holders of this position advocated that the issues could be handled
separately. (b) Those who considered that the municipality not only could
but also should make a statement about the pipeline and that the two issues
were so interconnected that they were undistinguishable.
In the latter group, there is still a division with regard to the two projects:
those in favour of and those against the pipeline. It is therefore possible to
regroup the positioning into three lines as described below. Each line in-
cludes a distinct narrative, i.e., a specific understanding of the policy issue
at stake. In every policy line, however, there is a variety of legitimating
grounds regarding how and why an actor has taken a position. How the
policy lines relate to each other is illustrated in the complication part of
figure 1.
Policy Line 1 (PL1) is in favour of the pipeline. They consider the devel-
opers to have followed all environmental requirements and that the con-
struction of a pipeline was justified by Europe's increasing energy needs. In
Nord Stream AG’s final application, they saw no obstacles, neither political
nor environmental, against the project. They argued that the port deal was
a strictly commercial arrangement that was very beneficial for the island
and that it should be considered together with the pipeline issue.
It is natural that it is discussed together. One should not separate them from
each other; it is exactly the task for the municipal council and executive
board to see the wholeness. (R3)
Therefore, PL1 is in favour of the Slite port being leased to the consor-
tium in exchange for the advance payment for port charges and ship calls
that will be used to fund the port restoration. PL1 thus performs a frame
extension (Snow et al. 1986) by including both the pipeline and the port in
the policy story, thus recognizing them as associated.
Policy Line (PL2) shares the view of the previous line on the port deal.
As the deal was considered strictly a matter of business, the proper way to
manage it was considered to do so within the technical committee. PL1 and
PL2 thus share the view of local benefits that the port deal would bring.
What sets them apart is that PL1 openly supports the pipeline, whereas PL2
avoids taking a position on the matter, as exemplified in the following
The pipeline is to be or not to be, whether to have it. But, we have a deal in
Slite where we have a company that wants to run pipes in and out. We keep
it apart. I have totally kept it apart. (R11)
In interviews, politicians and officials of PL2 express personal opinions
both for and against the pipeline and sometimes ambivalent approaches,
including advantages and disadvantages. However, they always insisted that
the two projects were to be treated separately. According to them, the port
deal was a strictly commercial arrangement, including no obligation for the
municipality to make a statement about the pipeline outside the port agree-
ment as such. Thus, unlike PL1, PL2 delimits the issue by excluding the
pipeline from the discussion, thus applying a frame contraction.
Policy Line 3 (PL3) comprises the political actors who oppose the pipe-
line, regardless of motives. Some suggest that the pipeline would have a pos-
sible negative impact on the marine environment and that it would lead to
a lock-in dependence on fossil fuel. Others highlight a security aspect,
mainly that the pipeline would mean unwanted greater Russian power in
the region. Although the need for a renovated harbour is recognized, polit-
ical and moral values are considered to make approval impossible, either
for environmental or military reasons. PL3 thus claim that the pipeline and
port issues have to be considered together, as illustrated in the quote below:
You can’t look at it in isolation. I mean, here, you can draw parallels to the
Nazi era or something similar. I mean, sure, we delivered ore to Germany,
but we do not like the extermination of the Jews; they have nothing to do
with each other. It was shameful to do so at the time. Clearly, one has to do
with the other. You can’t isolate them. Everything is linked in some way.
By including parameters outside the local scale, PL3 perform frame ex-
The pipeline story is largely a matter of power and legitimacy (Fransson
2014a). Needless to say, as a company dominated by Russian and German
financial and political interests, Nord Stream is a huge player for the Got-
land local authority to face. However, the local authority also had to con-
sider its relation with the citizens on the island. How did the three policy
lines justify their standpoints in front of themselves, the citizens and the
outside world? Considering the basic definition of legitimacy as “the foun-
dation of such governmental power as is exercised both with a conscious-
ness on the government’s part that it has a right to govern and with some
recognition by the governed of that right” (Sternberger 1972: 244), narra-
tive power becomes crucial; i.e., the decisions taken and actions pursued by
policy-makers have to be justified by words. The individuals adopting the
three policy lines motivated their standpoints by using different legitimation
arguments,15 as will now be illustrated and then summarized in table 1.
Several interviewees used knowledge as legitimation in favour of a pipeline.
One interviewee stressed that pipeline opponents were rarely seen at these
informative meetings. Asked why s/he thinks that the opponents did not go
to the meetings, the politician responded that opponents probably did not
want more information, as they had already made up their minds (R3). This
way of using information and knowledge to legitimate one´s own position
and to question the opponents’ position implies a belief that opponents were
uninformed and that information might have changed their standpoint. This
is a rational way of seeing information transferred and communicated
straightforwardly from one sender to a receiver.
I think they [Nord Stream] know better than anyone what lies at the bottom
of the Baltic by now. So, given how much ground survey has been done, that
[environmental harm etc.] was not a concern of mine. (R3)
15 Related concepts in the literature are “legitimation signs”, “symbols of legitima-
tion”, “master symbols”, “symbols of justifications”, etc. (Gerth & Mills (1969:
276; Sternberger 1972: 244-248; Edelman 1964: 1-21). Our approach has also been
inspired by authors such as Swyngedouw (2011), and Blühdorn (2009). We prefer
not to dig deeper into this literature, as our main points will, arguably, still be taken.
Strikingly, pipeline proponents use the same language and arguments as
the developer. One proponent who had become critical to the pipeline in
the final round voted against his/her own proposal, based on the argument
that s/he had now become better informed than before:
Interviewer: But, if you look back, some years have passed; do you have the
same positioning [concerning the gas pipeline] today that you had then? And,
did you stick to the same position during the entire process?
R6: Yes, I guess. There was a divide, if you wish, when I learnt more about
the project and what international regime that was at work. Before that, I
wrote that proposal, which was more in ignorance.
This is the (uncritical) approach to information that supported the pro-
cess granting a major advantage to the developer’s version of the narrative,
but here, it is used explicitly by people who once took another standpoint.
The above interviewee, an outright pipeline devotee in the 2008 debate, now
showed maps on other cables and lines crossing the Baltic and the great
number of gas pipelines already existing in the North Sea (Municipal Coun-
cil 2008a). At the same time, the politician asserted that s/he is not in favour
of the pipeline, just informed about it, and based on that logic, s/he is an
advocate of it in debates and interviews.
The rational, “informed” pro-positioning is contrasted with a narrative
about the pipeline opponent’s argumentation being based on emotion, i.e.,
the opposite of reason. This is a downplaying strategy also used in early
stages by representatives of the consortium (Fransson et al. 2011). Five years
down the line, all pipeline proponents in interviews still refer to the oppo-
nents negative positioning to the pipeline as being based on “emotions”.
One interviewee took it one step further, in terms of both vocabulary and
So, how is it now, about these touching sentiments [beröringskänslor]. It
happens easily that it spreads “I’ve heard that” and then something fanciful.
This politician transforms the emotions of the pipeline opponents into
physical experiences, adding “touching” to the usually mentioned feelings.
However, then s/he overrides the opponents’ “emotional” arguments by dis-
missing them as imaginary, plain rumours. It is a superior attitude that was
explicitly adopted by consortium representatives, who referred to pipeline
resistance as “public noise” stemming from emotions and ignorance due to
Swedish unfamiliarity with gas pipelines (Fransson et al. 2011). When pro-
ponents downplay their antagonists’ arguments as being based on “emo-
tions”, there is a corresponding tendency among pipeline opponents to dis-
trust the proponents’ arguments for duplicity and insincerity and, at times,
to even imply suspicions of corruption. Usually, these are allegations of the
conscious positioning of the other rather than of ignorance or naivety. Over-
all, little understanding of the other’s positioning is expressed in the pipeline
Local economic rationality
Within PL1 and PL2, a notion of local economic rationality is apparent. A
harbour is considered highly necessary for local development, and the deal
with the pipeline constructor would have had benefits:
We would get a port that we never could have paid for ourselves, an increase
in quality and opportunities it would bring to establish both cruise ships and
ferries. (R3)
We then thought that this was a way to bring at least SEK 100 million [EUR
94 million] to Gotland; why should we say no to that? We thought we could
do it in a morally correct way, and then, what did we have, to say let’s coun-
teract the development of the island, if it [the port deal] doesn’t happen? It
would have been a loss of prestige in that sense. (R8)
Thus, both PL1 and PL2 downscale the political aura surrounding the
pipeline constructor in media around the Baltic Sea Region and instead as-
sess the port deal as strictly business. In other words, the pipeline construc-
tor is to be regarded as any other actor wanting to use the harbour.
It could have been any corporation really that got in contact and wanted to
use the port of Slite. (R5)
[S]o then, I saw it as a client showing interest for a partnership in a major
project. I made no difference with regard to this customer or to any other
customer, whether it came from Denmark or elsewhere. (R8)
National security and the environment
In PL3, the tendency was the opposite of characterizing the deal as “strictly
business”; i.e., it was a matter of politicization. Thus, the approach to the
port deal and the pipeline was legitimized by national security and/or envi-
ronmental implications. Environmental arguments concerned the situation
in the Baltic Sea and climate change caused by fossil fuel.
That was my approach in the debate; I thought there were so many indica-
tions suggesting that the pipeline should be routed onshore. Because pipelines
already exist on the other side [of the Baltic], all you have to do is to put it
next to them, from an environmental point of view. (R1)
We cannot replace coal with something else that is also coal but a bit better.
National security and tricky international relations were arguments
against the pipeline that were raised by other actors within PL3, emphasiz-
ing that the pipeline would increase Russian power in the region.
There were many with me who said that, it’s no good that you, to a country
that [you] do not know where it’s heading. It may end up well, or it may end
up awkwardly if you give them control over something as important as en-
ergy, really. And, all the time, we found that we mustn’t see it as an isolated
issue. We said this in the council, too. If we say yes to the port in Slite, then
we say yes to Putin's foreign policy. You simply cannot claim that these two
aren’t related. (R2)
It was mainly security policy reasons [for me]. Letting Russians build a har-
bour that is. It should have been better to borrow money to build the harbour
and then get it back in charges. Then, you would be in another situation,
[not in] a dependency situation. (R16)
Extensive municipal competence
The previous argument is well in line with the argument that the municipal-
ity can comment and have an opinion on the pipeline, i.e., a basis of legiti-
That we fail to write a letter to Putin and Medvedev, I understand that we
can’t do that, however, to our government; we need to be clear. So, I urge
[…] that the municipality of Gotland makes a statement to the government
and to our members of parliament that Gotland municipality wishes that
they use every opportunity […] to prevent a gas pipeline from being built
through the Baltic Sea. (Green Party member of the municipal council, Mu-
nicipal Council 2008a)
Limited municipal competence
In opposition, interviewees adopting PL2 focused on the limited municipal
competence by stressing that decisions about the pipeline are to be taken on
a higher level. The municipality is not considered the right forum for making
statements about large-scale energy infrastructure.
When it comes to the gas pipeline, the decisions are guided by international
agreements, both within the UN and the EU, and it is governed by Swedish
law, and the decision lies on the government’s table, and it is a foreign policy
issue, which no council can make decisions about. (Centre Party member,
chair of Municipal Executive Board, Municipal Council 2008a)
The chairman of the board and the leader of the opposition are remark-
ably consistent in the PL2 approach that the pipeline cannot be addressed
by the municipality.
The gas pipeline in the Baltic Sea is not a municipal issue. We lack decision-
making power. (Social Democrat leader of the opposition, Municipal Coun-
cil 2008a)
No, we concluded that this is partly because of incompetence on it and partly
because the decision is not on our table. No, so I didn’t even want to go into
that debate when it was brought up about what we thought about the pipe-
line in the sea. (R8)
Fairness and democratic consistency
All PL3 advocates argued that the municipality could not accept the Nord
Stream I pipeline port offer before the pipeline issue was settled at the na-
tional level; i.e., it would be morally wrong to accept the port offer without
also approving of the pipeline. This could be labelled an argument of fair-
ness and democratic consistency.
We landed in a conviction that we cannot precede a [national] decision. It's
the government that, somehow, needs to say yes or no to this, together with
an environmental impact assessment. But, if we intervene and justify that
Slite harbour is rehabilitated with Nord Stream money, we take a stand and
think it is a good project. So, I guess that was our [the Party’s’] approach;
we preferred waiting until everything is ready, and then, of course, we can
begin to discuss the renovation of Slite port. (R10)
Contracting or extending the frame?
As illustrated, individual actors representing the local authority as adminis-
trators or elected politicians used a variety of legitimating arguments to ex-
plain and defend their standpoints, and some actors shifted arguments from
time to time depending on the situation. The three policy lines differed with
regard to policy level, geographical scale, and issue scope. The pipeline op-
ponents deliberately extended the frame politically, geographically and sub-
stantially to allow greater local responsibility, i.e., to advocate caution or
attempt to avert the project. Proponents did not consider the pipeline a
problem as soon as the formal requirements in the Environmental Impact
Assessment were achieved, and actors who had no official standing con-
tracted the frame, focused on the limited municipal competence and respon-
sibility, and strictly narrowed the harbour deal to concern only the pipeline.
The contraction strategy was a calculated solution to the local complication.
“We established that we couldn’t decide on the gas pipeline. (…) That’s how
we managed that part” (R4). One interviewee took credit for this local po-
sitioning based on this frame contraction strategy, having “rubbed off” the
issue for a higher authority level to handle the pipeline assessment (R8). A
summary of the actors, their positioning and legitimation arguments ac-
cording to the three policy lines is given in table 1.
Table 1. Actors and legitimation arguments according to the three policy
Policy Line 1
Policy Line 2
Policy Line 3
- Politicians with a
local, rational eco-
nomic approach.
- Members of the
Municipal Tech-
nical Committee,
regardless of politi-
cal affiliation.
- Officials in the
technical manage-
ment, directly in-
volved in the port
- Members of the
Municipal Tech-
nical Committee,
regardless of politi-
cal affiliation.
- Officials in the
technical manage-
ment, directly in-
volved in port deal.
- Representatives of
the two largest po-
litical parties of the
municipality, the
in-majority Centre
Party and the oppo-
sitional Social
- Representatives of
the Municipal Ex-
ecutive Board.
-The Green Party constitutes
the only party with a unified
positioning within PL3, but
there are also other individ-
ual members with strong en-
vironmental approach.
- Most of the Left Party poli-
- Individual politicians with a
strong national security ap-
proach, especially Conserva-
tives and Liberals.
- The gas pipeline
does more good
than harm.
- Gotland needs a
new port.
- Gotland needs a
new port.
-The port and the
gas pipeline are to
be treated as two
separate issues
-The municipality
cannot comment on
matters such as the
gas pipeline, nor
should it
- It would be morally wrong
to accept the port offer be-
fore the gas pipeline matter
is settled.
- There is a democracy defi-
cit in local politics.
-The pipeline should be re-
jected on grounds related to
the environment, energy
and/or national security.
of argu-
The next decisive event in the policy story a new bridge which led to a
new equilibrium (see figure 1 above), was when the port deal was decided
upon and approved by the municipal council in 2008. According to PL1
and PL3, it was thereafter unacceptable to criticize the pipeline. In 2007,
the head of the municipal technical committee and Nord Stream had signed
a contract about the harbour a deal that was appealed, (see above page
22). After a number of rounds in different committees, the municipal board
and the county court, it was decided in early 2008 to vote on the harbour
agreement in the council instead of waiting for the order from the county
court16. As a member of the technical committee recalls,
And, then you had to hear, it’s a hurry; they [Nord Stream] must get this; it takes a
long start-up time, which means th at they need to have an agreement quickly. (R10)
On the day for voting, the council also voted on the proposal against the
submarine pipeline written almost two years earlier by a member of the
Centre Party in opposition. This time, the Centre Party, now in a majority
coalition, voted against its earlier proposal. After a heated debate, the pro-
posal was voted down by 58 to 13 votes, meaning that the municipality
would not engage in having the pipeline routed onshore (Municipal Council
2008a; Municipal Council 2008c). An hour later, the port deal was ap-
proved by 52 votes for to 19 against, thereby confirming the deal agreed
upon in the technical committee (Municipal Council 2008b; Municipal
Council 2008d).
Actors voting in favour of the port deal persistently claimed that the pipe-
line was a non-issue for local politics (PL2). Typically, however, along with
praise or support for the local contraction strategy, there was additional
reassurance, expressed in both the interviews and debates, that the speaker
as a person was not a great enthusiast of the pipeline. The frame con-
traction factor was the single most important legitimation argument for lo-
cal decision and positioning. More than anything, contraction seems to have
16 The county court decided that the technical committee exceeded its powers (i.e.,
that because of its size and political character, the contract should have been a mat-
ter for the municipal council). The committee, however, appealed the decision to the
Administrative Court of Appeal, which ultimately annulled the county court deci-
sion (Region Gotland 2008; Hela Gotland 2008; SVT 2008). At that point, however,
the decision was already taken in the municipal council.
functioned as a strategy to justify for oneself the pro-pipeline decisions that
the local authorities were to make, thus illustrating legitimation as a process
with an internal and external reference.
That’s how you go about in politics sometimes. Your own conviction, you
have to, so to speak, you have to handle it. (R4)
In the 2008 local debates, the contraction strategy was taken to the ab-
surd, when leading majority politicians and leading oppositional politicians
virtually depoliticized the local council itself in their attempts to contract
the frame.
Using the municipal council or in that case the board or other committees
for political manoeuvring in order to win public opinion in individual party
issues, I think, often can be irresponsible and also short-sighted, and it would
be wrong if we started to cut back on these things. (Social Democratic leader
of the opposition; Municipal Council 2008a)
An example of the strength of this local belief occurred in the 2008 mu-
nicipality debate when a pipeline opponent was interrupted and corrected
by the council chairman. It is also a typical example of how a hot political
issue can be framed either through extension or contraction:
Opponent: Is there anyone who has missed the international news during the
last 3-4 years? What has happened in Ukraine, Georgia and in distant parts of
Asia, how Russia conducts a foreign policy based on energy and above all on
gas. It is quite obvious that this [the gas pipeline and the port offer] is a step in,
just as NN says, in their foreign policy (…) [is interrupted by the Chair]
The Chair: Now, I will ask you to go back, this is a port issue we’re talking
about, not Russian politics. (Municipal Council 2008b)
While PL2 proponents did not want to be associated with the approval of
a pipeline, they also did not want to be associated with the positioning of
PL1. Although many of these actors defended the pipeline, five years down
the line, they still claim to have said yes to the port and “no comment” to the
pipeline. In our study, however, one interviewee, recalling the pipeline after-
math in an interview, challenged this narrative version. It’s a strong narrative,
highlighting the stark pressure individual dissidents were subjected to.
And then, it was, in 201017, one very strange gathering. You notice when
you come into a room, fifteen people or so, if they have already talked to
each other. You can feel it. And, this was a beautiful Sunday afternoon, and
they had called a meeting. And, there was sunshine, and it was warm, but
[still] there were a lot of people there, called in. And, then they sat there one
by one, testifying about the benefits of this gas pipeline, except [another dis-
sident] and I. And, those who had been against the pipeline the day before
were suddenly in favour of it. Something had happened. [---] And, there were
personal attacks and ridicule, and [they told me] I had problems with my
emotions for being upset about environmental issues […]. And, this was all
about a statement that the municipal executive board would make on Mon-
day whether they were for or against the pipeline. Neither [the other dissi-
dent] nor I was part of the municipal executive board. But still, we had to be
executed. Apparently, it was so important to say yes to the pipeline. (R15)
The interviewee refers to a Sunday Party meeting preceding a municipal
board meeting the day after, where an official statement to the government
discretely was to be reported. The official statement consisted of a surprising
announcement, at least to the interviewee quoted above. The quote continues:
Then, at one o’clock the day after [the Sunday Party meeting], a unanimous
municipality executive board came out of the meeting room and said they
were basically against the pipeline but that, yes, they nevertheless had signed
a contract [about the harbour]. I don’t get it; what happened between four
or five o’clock on Sunday afternoon and Monday at one? Who was it that
created such pressure, or what happened that made the municipal executive
board suddenly in complete agreement that they were against the pipeline?
From basically having executed people who were against the pipeline few
hours earlier. [The other dissident] and I wrote a joint e-mail and asked them
why […]. We still haven’t received an answer. And, that was the last meeting
I went to with [my political Party]. (R15)
This is the narrative of one actor which clearly belongs to PL 3 telling
the scenario from that persons’ experience. The narrative is nevertheless
suggestive for the general story. The twist of the story is strikingly paradox-
ical. Was the rapid turn due to calls straight from the government? Or, is
17 [Sic!] The events the interviewee refers to took place in 2009. As Czarniawska
(2004:48) states, “an unaided memory always falters: people do not remember dates
and numbers. There are documents where such facts can be found”. According to
municipal documents and local media, the events took place in 2009.
the negative statement a convenient political disclaimer once the port resto-
ration deal was secured?
Towards a new equilibrium?
As presented below, the turnaround from offering “no comment” to being
critical towards the pipeline occurred in different political bodies during
2009. This marks the bridge towards a new equilibrium in our story. The
sudden prompt dislike of the pipeline was consolidated in PL2, as it proved
that the advocates of the port offer did not favour the pipeline and that the
pipeline and the harbour were to be considered separate issues. At the same
time, the statement reframes18 PL2, as its actors are now forced to take a
stance on the pipeline. Interestingly enough, the majority of our interview-
ees, adopting to all three lines, have problems recalling the statement.
The statement by the municipal board [kommunstyrelsen] followed the
same line of thought as the environmental and health protection committee
[miljö- och hälsoskyddsämnden] when commenting on a request from Nord
Stream to the Ministry of Enterprise [Näringsdepartementet] to locate a
pipeline system for gas transport in accordance with the law of the conti-
nental shelf. In spring 2009, the environmental and health protection com-
mittee and its aligned administrative unit articulated a critical comment re-
garding the pipeline in a response to national authorities, in which they ar-
gued that natural gas was not an appropriate energy source:
The Environmental and Health Protection Committee through an overall as-
sessment opposes the application permit. Energy projects within the EU
should focus on long-term sustainable energy sources. [...]. Gotland Munici-
pality has in its energy plan (Energi 2010) adopted a climate strategy with
the goal to shift to a sustainable and carbon-neutral energy supply. Natural
gas is not a long-term sustainable energy source, even if emissions are less
than for other types of energy. It is regrettable that the EU invests in such a
huge project to increase the use of natural gas instead of developing sustain-
able energy sources. (Environment and Health Protection Committee 2009,
45, 49, italics added by authors)
This standpoint was not surprising, as the committee had expressed sim-
ilar thoughts earlier during the process. More surprisingly, some months
later, the municipal board showed opposition to the pipeline request, noting
18 See Schön & Rein (1994: 38 ff.) for an elaboration of the reframing mechanism.
that “we instead of natural gas prefer seeing investments in long-term sus-
tainable energy sources”. They added that if the pipeline still materializes,
the municipal board wants to stress that the Baltic Sea is an inner sea with extremely
vulnerable eco-systems, where any bad effect or risk of a bad effect constitutes a
potential threat to the water environment”. (Municipal Executive Board 2009:1)
Thus, the frame is no longer contracted but rather extended, as the mu-
nicipal responsibility for the environment is now highlighted, including a
critique against EU energy policy. However, the pipeline and port issues are
still kept apart, and the board tries to keep the issue local by emphasizing
local energy transitions. The frame is thus continuously contracted.
The ending equilibrium of the story (see figure 1) is thus that the Gotland
local government advised against the pipeline project in general but that
Nord Stream was welcome to use the harbour of Slite if the project was
approved. In fact, the reconstruction of the harbour, which was mostly fi-
nanced by Nord Stream, was already in progress at the time 19! However,
later the same year, in December 2009, all the concerned national actors,
including the Swedish government, approved the construction of the pipe-
line. The Swedish Government legitimated its approval of Nord Stream’s
application by referring to its Environmental Impact Assessment, which
concluded that the pipeline would not pose an environmental threat20. The
argument was that no kind of issue other than environmental issues would
lead to rejection according to international law (Fransson 2014a; Langlet
2014; Carlgren 2009). One of the three local policy lines (PL3) nevertheless
reflected a different view, raising national security concerns about potential
geopolitical developments in the Baltic Region (“the fear of Russia” argu-
ment), which was ridiculed by the majority in the Gotland council at the
time. In early 2010, pipes were transported to the newly refurbished port of
Slite, and the construction of the pipeline began. Two and a half years later,
the twin pipes of Nord Stream I were in operation (Nord Stream 2013). In
early 2013, Nord Stream launched plans for another twin pipeline.
If the 2009 statement was accurate, the Gotland Local Authority would
also discourage the construction of future projects. However, would the
19 The re-construction of the port of Slite started in December 2008 (Nord Stream
2013: 121).
20 The then-Minister of the Environment, Andreas Carlgren, stated that “now the gov-
ernment´s conclusion is clear: no serious government can refuse an application for a pipe-
line when the environmental provisions have been satisfied” (Carlgren 2009).
current Regional Authority approve of the utilization of the harbour again,
and would the pipeline constructor be interested in using a harbour in a
municipality/region with a negative view of its product? Would the Gotland
Region’s commitment to national and regional climate change discourses
prompting energy transition and its identity as an eco-region be so im-
portant that future business with the pipeline constructor could be jeopard-
ized? Or, would the municipality act as an influential civil servant expresses
it “when it just passes outside [the pipeline, without working from the
island], we just get possible disadvantages, no bonus in any way” (R11)
thereby reframing its stance again to be able to welcome the pipeline con-
structor once more? We will, in the epilogue section, briefly return to this
issue (Nord Stream II) and answer these questions.
The situation is of immediate concern considering the “hybrid war” in
Ukraine, and the current conflict-ridden relations between Russian and Eu-
ropean governments. In Sweden, an enlarged military presence in the Baltic
Sea in general and on Gotland in particular is prompted, and in EU, the
dependence on Russian energy is in focus (Götz 2015; Schmidt-Feltzmann
2011). In the 2013 interviews, actors voicing resistance owing to national
security reasons were considered conspiracy makers and laughed at. Being
hesitant to a Russian presence in the region was not regarded as acceptable
in the hegemonic Swedish discourse.21 Notably, the culture of making fun
of colleagues expressing “fears of Russia” was so established at the time
that the interviewees expected the interviewers to laugh along with them in
interviews five years later. This strong culture of consensus borders on vic-
timization, as expressed in an individual narrative by another pipeline op-
ponent, who chose to leave politics altogether during the process. A political
culture that seems to demand silence on such a large issue triggers severe
questions about the norms of an open, democratic society. It also illustrates
“the power of silence”, as a mechanism of de-politicization (Fransson
2014b), if it is carried to its extreme, a “convenient mechanism for disarm-
ing opposition, swiping under the carpet potentially contentious issues”
Hay (2007: 92).
21 However, one PL2 politician reported a similar “fear of Russia” among Estonian
colleagues, thus indicating that the Gotland local culture of making fun of pipeline
opponents did not pertain to colleagues in the post-Soviet sphere. The interviewee
completely dismissed, however, the Estonian colleagues’ conviction that the gas
pipeline project could be averted altogether by a no from Gotland.
The presence of a transnational gas pipeline affair complicated political life
on the island. The developer’s call for a prompt answer the port offer was
understood to expire and go to another municipality if an answer was not
given sufficiently quickly provoked a stressful and conflict-ridden course
of action. In the encounter with the transnational business logic, the munic-
ipality was not sufficiently strong to request the time for the Swedish Gov-
ernment to make a clear-cut decision. In a way, the municipality acted as a
vanguard for the latter, i.e., by preparing the local and national opinion for
a government decision that may, wrongly, be seen as inevitable in hindsight.
The port offer given by Nord Stream became “impossible” to refuse, yes,
but certainly not without a stressful and complicated political process in the
municipality that preceded it. In other words, according to the narrative
approach, there are always alternative solutions, although a deterministic
impression may prevail without a detailed reconstruction.
An analytical model based on narrative methodology was applied to re-
construct three stories/policy lines (see figure 1). Through the whole process,
PL1 actors were in favour of the construction of both the pipeline and the
harbour. PL2 actors advocated for the developer´s disposal of the harbour
in exchange for a substantial fee while stressing that the local deal and the
gas pipeline construction as such were to be treated separately. PL3 actors
opposed both the local harbour deal and the pipeline project, claiming that
they neither could nor should be assessed separately. In the end, PL2 was
identified as the “winning” story, even though it was reframed little by little,
as the actors were forced to take a stance on the pipeline issue but still tried
to keep the two issues apart. Why was that?
The success of PL2 stems from a combination of several elements. Urgent
action and a quick decision were deemed necessary to satisfy the company’s
demand, triggering the three policy lines to formulate the actors’ legitimat-
ing arguments. The assessment of a “rational, objective and knowledge-
based decision” above a “moral and emotional decision” was one such le-
gitimating argument driven by PL1 and partly by PL2. Proponents of these
two lines perceived PL3 to be driven by emotions, but at the same time, they
did not acknowledge any element of emotion in their own positioning.
The national security reason for opposing the pipeline was considered
obsolete and conspiratorial an exceptional assessment in light of today´s
sentiments reflecting “fear of Russia” in Swedish society (see the Epilogue
section in this report). Negative environmental concerns for the seabed were
considered non-scientific and were disaffirmed by the extensive Environ-
mental Impact Assessment. Despite this, energy and climate change con-
cerns were ultimately considered legitimate in PL2. This proved successful,
as the final decision by the municipal executive board was explicitly moti-
vated by an urge for sustainable development, particularly by a desire to not
increase fossil fuel usage. That is, the argument served as a paradoxical ex-
cuse for combining a principal stance against the pipeline with one in favour
of leasing the harbour to Nord Stream I.
The contraction logic presented by the leader of the political opposition
is remarkably similar to that of the majority leader, indicating a joint ap-
proach to the matter. The close collaboration between the political majority
and the opposition is a power factor that is made visible in the narrative
analysis. Several interviewees confirmed that local decision making in the
municipality effectively takes place in working committees and informal
meetings, reducing the official democratic procedure (e.g., voting in the
council) to what one of our interviewees (IP8) referred to as “charades”
[spel för gallerierna]. In a similar way, reaching a consensus among the
chairmen in an informal working committee is palpably referred to as
achieving “broad political support” (R8), i.e., an expression of strong sup-
port in the council. Of course, when assessing the outcome of the local pol-
icy process, one must not forget Nord Stream’s initial tempting offer with
an attractive deal which was too good to refuse as it turned out.
The pipeline and harbour policy process spanned over three mandate pe-
riods of alternating political majorities (2005-2014), which are locally re-
ferred to as “galloping majorities” (R11).22 The same individuals, more or
less, alternate from time to time on political posts, implying that the factual
decisions are taken in small working committees that include top rank peo-
ple from political parties across the official majority-opposition divide. This
informal consensus procedure, which is well documented in all parts of the
material, creates a political culture that lacks control of power in the form
of a real opposition, i.e., all leading politicians are equally responsible (or
irresponsible?). Thus, despite a stressful and conflict ridden political pro-
cess, the end result in hindsight may resemble the outcome of rational, a-
political decision making. After all was said and done, the local/regional
22 For the distribution of council seats on political parties in the Region Gotland
Council 2007-2018, see Appendix III.
authority received its redeveloped port, and it could even express its disap-
proval of the gas pipeline in line with its eco-municipal image while simul-
taneously regretting its own lack of legal power to obstruct the construction.
The limits of narrative power
By examining the local political repercussions of a huge multinational en-
ergy project in detail, the case study contributes to our understanding of
multi-scalar/multi-level policy-making. Thus, our story – (the fabula) has
demonstrated the power of a narrative approach. It has revealed how three
Gotland local policy lines are intricately related; how they developed over
time, after a sequence beginning with the break of an equilibrium when the
pipeline and the harbour were suddenly pushed onto the local authority
agenda by the Nord Stream proposal; how the positions were legitimated;
and how conflicts and heated debates occurred among local politicians and
administrators, ultimately leading to a solution and a new equilibrium.
However, and most importantly, the strategic, political and financial
muscles of the Nord Stream Consortium and its multinational owners, no-
tably headed by the Russian Gazprom company as the majority owner,
proved decisive for the outcome of Nord Stream I. The official story of the
Swedish Government (Fransson 2014a), and that of the Gotland local/re-
gional authority, must be seen in light of this huge, Russian-dominated
transnational actor and its crucial role in natural gas delivery to Germany
and other EU countries. Thus, although the descriptive power of the narra-
tive approach has been demonstrated by our analysis, it must be embedded
within a wider multi-scalar/multi-level political framework to make com-
prehensive power visible, something that will be underlined in the following
Since the approval and construction of Nord Stream I, the geopolitical sit-
uation in the Baltic Region has become heated owing to Russia’s annexation
of Crimea, intervention in Ukraine and potential threats to other neighbour-
ing countries (Götz 2015).23 In autumn 2016, the re-localization of the Rus-
sian robot system Iskander to Kaliningrad (Blekinge Läns Tidning 13 Octo-
ber 2016), the arrival of nuclear-armed Russian warships in the Baltic Sea
(Aftonbladet a; 27 October 2016), and other incidents, accompanied by me-
dia headlines such as “Taking Gotland and Blekinge within twenty-four
hours” (Aftonbladet b; 28 October 2016), were omen of a radical re-inter-
pretation of how Russian foreign policy concerning the Baltic Sea Region
should be assessed.
Whereas the leader of the Moderate Party delegation in the EU parlia-
ment and the Moderate Party representative in the Nordic Council, strongly
argued against the approval of the planned Nord Stream II (Hökmark
2016a; Wallmark 2016), the Swedish Social Democratic-Green Party gov-
ernment long hesitated to take a clear stance on the issue, although it ex-
pressed a critical view of Russian expansionism in the region. In a parlia-
mentary debate, Minister of Foreign Affairs Margot Wallström stated that
“we are strongly determined to look after our national security interests,
and if needed we will take to necessary measures [….] Sweden will on the
basis of national security and environmental interests urge the EU to hinder
the construction of the new gas pipeline” (Radio Sweden P 4, 8 September
2016). However, the government sent an (at least symbolic) message to Rus-
sia by deciding on an immediate small-scale re-militarization of Gotland by
23 “There is a broader policy conflict issue that cannot be avoided being discussed
in respect of Nord Stream II. In March 2014, the Russian Federation annexed Cri-
mea, the first European annexation since World War II. In addition, eastern Ukraine
was invaded and occupied by forces that were either supported or financed by the
Russian state or were actually Russian military forces” (Riley 2016: 23). “The
planned link, which would pump Russian gas directly to Germany, has met re-
sistance from eastern EU members including Poland, Slovakia and the Baltic States.
Those nations and Ukraine, which either get income from gas transit fees or wish to
diversify their energy imports beyond Russia, have called Nord Stream II ‘anti-Eu-
ropean” (Bauerova & Tomek 2016).
localizing150 soldiers on the island. As stated by Colonel Anders Löfberg
at the Swedish Ministry of Defence headquarters:
Energy resources and flows are always a matter of security policy interest,
and we know that from a Russian point of view the gas pipeline is of
great economic priority, thereby also implying a national security interest.
Threats and disturbances to such big interests may imply a higher pitch of
the voice [….] Gotland plays an important role in the Baltic Sea and has a
key position in terms of geopolitical and military strategy. The one who rules
over Gotland can have a big influence on what happens in the Baltic Sea.
This is what the government has pointed out in its positional decision, Got-
land´s importance for sea and air lines to and from the Baltic Region and
Finland. (Löfberg as quoted in Dagens Nyheter 2016)
In contrast to this, in autumn 2016, the Social Democratic chairman of
the Gotland Regional Council repeatedly insisted that Nord Stream is a
commercial company and not an instrument of the Russian government and
thus saw no reason to stop Nord Stream from renting the harbour (see news
articles and editorials in the local press, listed at the end of the reference
section), which reflects a strict contraction argument after the original PL2.
This is also very much in line with the official Nord Stream II standpoint:
Nord Stream 2 does not operate in a legal void it is strictly regulated by EU
law, international conventions and national legislation. […] ‘Equal treatment
for equal cases’ is a constituting principle of the rule-of-law, which is one of
the fundamental values on which the EU is based. Arbitrary treatment for
political reasons is the exact opposite of the rule-of-law. Nevertheless, that
does not seem to stop some opponents from demanding special treatment for
Nord Stream 2 not because there would be legal grounds for such treatment
but just because they are politically opposed to the project. (Lissek 2016: 2-
However, in mid-December 2016, Minister of Defence Peter Hultqvist
and Minister of Foreign Policy Margot Wallström called upon the chairman
of the Gotland Regional Council and the chairman of the Municipal Coun-
cil of Karlshamn for information and discussion about the proposal of the
Nord Stream Consortium to use the harbours in the two places to store
pipeline tubes and provide services during the construction work. On the
day after the talks, the technical committee of the Gotland Local Authority
24 Ulrich Lissek is Head of Communications and Governmental Relations, Nord
Stream II AG.
unanimously decided not to make a deal with Nord Stream II25. Notably,
the basic legal premises of Swedish local self-government cannot in a case
like this enforce a central government decision on a local or regional self-
government authority, but the chairman of the Regional Council declared
that during the talks, information was presented that lead the Council´s ear-
lier position on the matter to be reconsidered. 26
It is not a case of a radical turnaround [….] I have wanted the full picture
and now I have got it. It is an assessment about security policy that has sent
a clear signal about how the government views the situation. If we had not
changed our minds, the question would have been ‘why don’t they believe in
the government’? (Chair of the Gotland Region Council as cited in Gotlands
Allehanda 15 December 2016)
The reaction of Nord Stream II AG to the withdrawal of the Gotland
Regional Council from the project is reflected in the following comment by
the company´s Swedish senior advisor, Lars Grönstedt:
To use the port of Slite for pipe storage is optimal from a logistics point of
view. If this port cannot be used, another port will be used for pipe storage.
It may be a bit more expensive and the environmental impact will be more
significant, as it will lead to longer ship transports. It is always outrageous
to waste resources. But, in a project with a total budget of about 8 billion
euros (80 billion Swedish kronor), this additional cost is insignificant. (As
cited from his debate article in the Swedish business newspaper Dagens In-
dustri 8 December 2016; see Grönstedt (2016) in the reference list.)
At the time of finishing this report, there are even speculations in the
media that other Baltic Sea harbour municipalities have signalled an interest
in storing Nord Stream II pipeline tubes (Dagens Nyheter 8 January 2017).
25 Thus, the decision was not taken in the council, i.e., in line with the corresponding
decision regarding Nord Stream I (see above page 22 and 33).
26 In the Karlshamn case, only one (!) member of the municipal council, a Moderate
Party member, has been an adversary to Nord Stream II over the years (Aftonbladet
2016c). The port board [hamnstyrelsen] raised arguments in favour of making a deal
with Nord Stream II anyway (Sydöstran 18 December 2016), and in the beginning
of February the Karlshamn municipal board decided to make a “logistic deal” with
the Wasco company (equal ownership by Gazprom and some European companies).
The port will be used for storing the German-produced pipelines: “Our port em-
ployees will load the pipelines on ships that will be transported and put together out
in the Baltic Sea. Thus, no offering of port, no Russian vessels, and no foreign staff
involved.” (Interview with Paul Hedlund, spokesman of the Liberal Party; Sydöstran
9 February 2017).
According to our conceptual framework, the local political equilibrium
was once again shaken by “high politics”, thus challenging and re-defining
the former local policy lines; i.e., there was a turnaround of attitudes (?) and
official standpoints (yes, indeed) similar to what has happened at the na-
tional level. After the meeting with the government, not only members of
the conservative and liberal parties in the Region Gotland Council are now
reluctant to let Nord Stream rent the Slite harbour despite the offered sub-
stantial financial bait for port investments, i.e., the official standpoint of the
council now aligns with PL3 in its extension argument, as defined in our
previous analysis.27
In other words, the security argument (“fear of Russia”) was suddenly
also accepted by the current Social Democratic-Green Party majority in the
Region Gotland Council, although not until the Minister of Defence (Peter
Hultqvist) and the Minister of Foreign Affairs (Margot Wallström) “in plain
language” gave representatives of the Gotland and Karlshamn authorities
“secret information” (Aftonbladet 2016c). They said, “We don´t tramp into
local government issues [.…] But the clash between national security and
local self-government is a new situation for the government” (Wallström),
and “We have discovered problems in Swedish legislation and have to do
something about it [….] If Nord Stream II is implemented according to the
plans, it will have consequences for Swedish defence planning”
Thus, at the end of 2016, the narrative arrived at a crossroads where the
clash between the deeply rooted, constitutional principle of local self-gov-
ernment collides with the national security argument and becomes critical,
laying a heavy burden on the two chairmen as arbiters. They have not, how-
ever, revealed any details of the “secret information” that made them
change their standpoints, neither to their colleagues in government nor to
the general public.
In other words, we are witnessing a narrative turnaround in favour of
PL3, implying that Gotland does not want Nord Stream II and does not
27 For the current election period (2015-2018), there is a majority for the Social
Democrats-Green Party-Left Party, in the Region Gotland Council (see Appendix
28 In an interview for Radio Sweden, Minister of Defense Peter Hultqvist repeated
the need for new legislation to prevent similar clashes between national security pol-
icy and local self-government (Radio Sweden P 1, 7 January 2017).
want to rent Slite harbour 29. The turnaround also means a shift from a
contraction to an extension framework, where the port and pipeline issues
are now intimately connected, in line with the original PL3 position during
the Nord Stream I process30. The now broadly acknowledged security argu-
ment (“fear of Russia”) finally outweighed the financial argument to boost
local development, including further investments in Slite harbour. In terms
of our conceptual framework, the equilibrium state reached after the Nord
Stream I decision was gradually undermined and complicated by the re-in-
terpretation of a potential Russian threat.31 Maybe this will develop into a
new equilibrium in the future, largely unifying earlier divergent opinions
among the political representatives in the Gotland Regional Council. How-
ever, attitudes and final standpoints have not harmonized thus far. Strik-
ingly, the environmental argument was largely absent in the final stage of
the Nord Stream II debates, mentioned neither in terms of threats to the
Baltic Sea nor in terms of prolonged European dependence on fossil fuel.
Again, our story (the Nord Stream fabula) shows that the Nord Stream
pipelines have created a huge challenge for a local government in the context
of complex, multi-scalar/multi-level governance. What is particularly puz-
zling (and worrying), however, is that crucial issues in the last round can
only be answered by more or less informed guesses not least with respect to
the following three items: (i) What are the real plans of the Russian govern-
ment in terms of foreign and energy policy? (ii) What are the German and
EU plans regarding future energy policy, including natural gas delivery from
Russia? (iii) How will Russian-NATO-Sweden relations develop in the con-
text of new, still largely unknown American foreign policy? Considering
29 In a popular speech, the Slite port is called “the Putin quay” [Putinkajen] (Dagens
Nyheter 2016).
30 Frame extension was also used in the PLI position, although it was in favour of
both the pipeline and the use of the port.
31 In a critical report to the Centre for Policy Analysis, Alan Riley (Senior Fellow at
the Institute for Statecraft, Temple Place, London) concludes that “the speed with
which the Nord Stream 2 project was decided upon meant that many legal and pol-
icy issues were overlooked. It may well be that the promoters thought that as Nord
Stream 1 was brought into operation without too much difficultly so could Nord
Stream 2. However […] a lot has changed since Nord Stream 1 was conceived, pro-
moted and executed. The third energy package, and in particular the Gas Directive
came into force, and case law and decisional practice precedent has been established.
Furthermore […] the policy context has also radically changed, both in terms of the
focus on supply security and in respect of relations with Russia. These legal and
policy factors make the delivery of NS2 much more challenging than delivering
NS1” (Riley 2016: 18-19).
crucial “high politics” issues such as these, the Gotland Regional Council
may have been wise to drop responsibility for Swedish national security pol-
icy in this case, although at the price of losing a substantial financial addi-
tion to the local government’s purse and without the ability (and/or willing-
ness) to inform the island citizenry about the details of information that
made them change their minds.
Aftonbladet [Swedish daily newspaper] (2016a) Ryska missilfartyg in i
Östersjön - kan avfyra kärnvapen [Russian missile worships into the Bal-
tic Sea capable of blasting nuclear weapons] News article, 27 October.
Aftonbladet (2016b) Tar Gotland och Blekinge - på ett dygn [Takes Got-
land and Blekinge within twenty-four hours] News article, 28 October
Aftonbladet (2016c) Pressas av regeringen [Under pressure by the govern-
ment] News article 14 December 2016, p. 8-9.
Andrews, Molly, Corinne Squire & Maria Tamboukou (Eds) (2008) Do-
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Articles in the local Gotland and the Blekinge press, October
2016 - February 2017.32
Blekinge Läns TidningKarlshamn säger jag till ryska gasrör [Karlshamn
approves of Russian gas pipelines] News article, 21 October 2016.
Blekinge Läns Tidning Kärnvapen nära Blekinge ökar Rysslands kontroll
[Nucelar weapons increase Russian control] News article, 13 October 2016.
Bofride, Eva Bra tillfälle för (S) att visa mod [Good opportunity for the Social
Democrats showing courage] Gotlands Tidningar 19 October, p. 15.33
Carlsson, Mikael ÖB vill slippa rysk hyresgäst i Slite [Commander in Chief
wants to avoid Russian renter at Slite] Gotlands Tidningar 18 October, p. 2.
Erfors, Erik Det är så verklighetsfrämmande att jag baxnar [It is so far away
from reality that I am perplexed] Gotlands Tidningar 21 October, p.8.
Eriksson, Lillebi & Carlsson, Mikael M-politiker: Oansvarigt och naivt
av Jansson [M-politician: Irresponsive and naive by Jansson] Gotlands
Tidningar 19 October, p. 4.34
Fransson, Erik – Hamnarna hamnar i fokus [Ports in focus]. Gotlands Tid-
ningar 19 October, p.19.35
Gotlands Allehanda 15 December 2016. Regionen vänder och nobbar [The
Region turns around and quits].
32 Gotlands Tidningar is a merger of two former local newspapers, one supporting
the Centre Party and the other the Social Democratic Party. News articles aside, the
newspaper offers space for both political sides in editorials.
33 Eva Bofride is the Centre Party Political Editor of Gotlands Tidningar.
34 M-politician = Simon Härenstam, politician representing the Moderate Party.
Jansson = Björn Jansson, Social Democratic chairman of the Gotland Region Coun-
cil. Mikael Carlsson is News Editor of Gotlands Tidningar. Lillebi Eriksson is As-
sistant News Editor of the same newspaper.
35 Erik Fransson is the Social Democratic Political Editor of Gotlands Tidningar.
Hökmark, Gunnar (2016b) Farligt att gå Gazprom till mötes [Dangerous
accepting Gazprom] Blekinge Läns Tidning 25 October, p. 21.36
Linder, Mats Regering och region bör lyssna på ÖB [Government and
Region should listen to Commander in Chief] Gotlands Allehanda 18
October, p.2.37
Sydöstran 9 February 2017. Därför ryska rör i Karlshamn [The reason for
Russian pipelines at Karlshamn]
Sydöstran 18 December 2016. Hamnen avvaktar att skriva på avtal om
lagring av rör [The port awaits signing a deal on storing of pipes]
Sydöstran 14 December 2016. Gotland säger nej till Nord Stream 2 [Gotland
says no to Nord Stream II].
36 Gunnar Hökmark is a Moderate Party member of the EU Parliament.
37 Mats Linder is Political Editor of Gotlands Allehanda, a newspaper supporting
the Moderate Party.
Route of Nord Stream Gas Pipeline
through the Baltic Sea from Vyborg, Russia to Lub-
min/Greifswald, Germany.
Source: (Modified from Gazprom website) Online: http://www.gaz- [Accessed: 2015-04-
27] Slite , Gotland, Karlskrona and Karlshamn marked by the authors. Like Slite
the Karlskrona port was used by Nord Stream I under the construction phase.
Karlshamn is wanted by Nord Stream II in a similar way as Slite and Karlskrona
were, but the municipal board of Karlshamn decided to make a seemingly less
compelling deal with Nord Stream; see footnote 26, page 44).
Interviews (conducted at Gotland 2012-
2013 by Karin Edberg and Anna-Lisa Fransson)
Interviewee, party affiliation and administrative
Location of interview
Member of the Green Party
Municipal main building,
Visby, Gotland
Member of the Conservative Party
University Library,
Visby, Gotland
Member of the Conservative Party
Visby, Gotland
Member of the Social Democrats
Member of Municipal Executive
Board 2006-2010
Municipal main building,
Visby, Gotland
Member of the Centre Party [Centerpartiet]
Member of Municipal Executive
Board 2006-2010
Centre Party office,
Visby, Gotland
Member of the Centre Party
Member of Municipal Executive
Board 2006-2010
Interviewee’s workplace,
Visby, Gotland
Civil Servant, County Administrative Board
University Library,
Visby, Gotland
Member of the Centre Party
Member of Technical Committee [Tekniska
nämnden] 2006-1010
Interviewee’s home,
North Gotland
Civil Servant, County Administrative Board
County Administrative Board,
ing, Visby, Gotland
Member of the Green Party
Member of Technical Committee 2006-2010
Green Party office,
Visby, Gotland
Civil Servant, Technical Administration
[Tekniska förvaltningen]
Municipal main building,
Visby, Gotland
Civil Servant, Technical Administration, Harbour
division [Tekniska förvaltningen, hamnavdel-
Interviewee’s workplace,
Slite, Gotland
Member of the Left Party [Vänsterpartiet]
Member of Technical Committee 2006-2010
Interviewee’s workplace,
Visby, Gotland
Civil Servant, Technical Administration, Harbour
Port of Visby, Gotland
Member of the Conservative Party
Café, Visby
Member of the Liberal Party [Folkpartiet]
ber 2013
University Library,
Visby, Gotland
The distribution of council seats on polit-
ical parties in the Region Gotland Council 2007-2018
The council terms start on November 1 of the previous year.
Majority coalitions marked in bold.
M = Moderate Party [Moderaterna; Conservative]
C = Centre Party [Centerpartiet]
L= Liberal Party (before 2015 called the People’s Party [Folkpartiet]
V = Left Party [Vänsterpartiet]
MP = Green Party [Miljöpartiet]
KD = Christian Democrats [Kristdemokraterna]
SD = Sweden Democrats [Sverigedemokraterna; Nationalist/Populist]
FI = Feminist Party
Source: Gotland in Figures. Facts and Statistics 2015.
38 One Left Party representative resigned 2005.
Nord Stream II on The Nord Stream II
project (Dec. 15, 2016, Zug)
We acknowledge the potential decisions of Region Gotland and the
municipality Karlshamn not to sign an agreement for the utilization
of their respective harbours Slite and Karlshamn.
Both ports had until very recently signaled their commercial interest
in cooperating on the project. The consequence of the decision would
be that Wasco Coatings GmbH, the German unit of Dutch Wasco
Coatings BV, would not be able to sign contracts for the use of these
harbours for pipe transshipments.
If both Swedish municipalities take a formal decision preventing the
use of the harbours, Nord Stream 2 and its contractor Wasco Coat-
ings, will look for alternative logistics facilities around the Baltic Sea.
During the first Nord Stream project, the company, Swedish authori-
ties, municipalities, suppliers and local communities all cooperated in
an open, constructive and fruitful manner over a period of many
years. Nord Stream 2 would like to continue such cooperation guided
by the same principles.
Source: Nord Stream II (2016a). Online.
the-nord-stream-2-project-35/ [Accessed: 2016-12-16] [Our italics]
Full-text available
Crisis management planning and response can be improved by regional governments and organisations learning from one another. Specifically, comparative learning may be a benefit when groups understand the perceived effectiveness of various regional approaches when responding to different types of hazards. This article presents findings from a comparative case study analysis of regional governance perspectives of crisis management for geopolitical events and natural hazards in the Sunshine Coast, Australia, and Gotland, Sweden. Data were collected and analysed using document analyses and semi-structured interviews with regional practitioners. It was found that regional crisis management is increasingly influenced by global processes that are affecting the scales and characteristics of crises. As a result, prospective regional governance must evolve to include more international perspectives in crisis management and account for activities and processes that take place beyond arbitrary political boundaries.
This article addresses a neglected question about the effects of dispersed authority in the European Union (EU) on the EU’s ability to manage external contestations. It investigates authority challenges from two major external actors in the energy, and specifically the gas sector, and scrutinizes the management of authority conflicts at local sites in different EU states in the Baltic Sea region. The second Russian transboundary submarine gas infrastructure project Nord Stream 2 (NS2), owned and managed by a whole-owned subsidiary of the Russian state-controlled energy giant Gazprom, serves as an illustrative case study. It reveals how multiple authority conflicts at different sites and levels, and the challenges from both the Russian Federation (Russia) and the United States of America (USA), played out, and why formal adjudication has been a primary tool for the EU and several of its member states to assert their authority and manage contestations at the local, national and EU level.
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Two kinds of local low-carbon initiatives are the focus in this paper: those initiated under the umbrella of a central government program, and those initiated from below by individuals and municipalities in Sweden. The project studied in the first category was focused on eco-technological innovations undertaken by a municipal housing company. The case in the second category was a dialogue-based program with selected citizens willing to test a climate-friendly lifestyle. The latter approach faced strong barriers when going from words to deeds, lacking the large-scale favors of massive eco-technological investments. Highlighting one particular project in each category, we illustrate the potentials and barriers of each approach. It is concluded that policymakers have to find ways to combine the two, otherwise there is a risk that low-carbon committed individuals will become disillusioned or that eco-technological gains will be spoiled by “rebound consumption.”
[From clash of interests to symbiosis? Environmental policy and welfare in times of economic boom and recession] Global challenges such as climate change, the free flow of international capital, and growing political transnational cooperation, together with two major financial crises, have put pressure on the national welfare state during recent decades. During the same period, the concepts of sustainable development and ecological modernization have contributed with an understanding of economic growth and environmental awareness as complementary. In that context, Karin Edberg’s article discusses whether environmental policy can be said to be part of the modern Swedish welfare state. Edberg makes use of the annual inaugural speeches given by the prime minister in connection with the opening of the Swedish parliament. This implies that the article’s results rather than reflecting political practice points at issues of political interest and their articulation. Edberg shows how environmental questions have fluctuated between being a de-ideologized and normalized part of the political landscape, and a political watershed. Today, the idea of sustainable development is the glue that connects environmental policies with the welfare state – at least on a rhetorical level – and which makes the environment a consensus issue. Publication history: Published original. (Published 7 October 2016) Citation: Edberg, Karin (2016) “Fran motsatsforhallande till symbios? Miljopolitik och valfard i ekonomiska upp- och nedgangar”, in Arkiv. Tidskrift for samhallsanalys , issue 6, pp. 7–37. DOI:
This edited volume presents a comprehensive and coherent interdisciplinary analysis of challenges and possibilities for sustainable governance of the Baltic Sea ecosystem by combining knowledge and approaches from natural and social sciences. Focusing on the Ecosystem Approach to Management (EAM) and associated multi-level, multi-sector and multi-actor challenges, the book provides up-to-date descriptions and analyses of environmental governance structures and processes at the macro-regional Baltic Sea level. Organised in two parts, Part 1 presents in-depth case studies of environmental governance practices and challenges linked to five key environmental problems - eutrophication, chemical pollution, overfishing, oil discharges and invasive species. Part 2 analyses and compares governance challenges and opportunities across the five case studies, focusing on governance structures and EAM implementation, knowledge integration and science support, as well as stakeholder communication and participation. Based on these cross-case comparisons, this book also draws a set of general conclusions on possible ways of improving the governance of the Baltic Sea by promoting what are identified as vital functions of environmental governance: coordination, integration, interdisciplinarity, precaution, deliberation, communication and adaptability.
Russian external energy policy is frequently described as geopolitical (as opposed to EU energy policy, which is often characterised as market-based). This article reviews geopolitical and market approaches in existing studies and identifies paradigmatic and instrumental levels in each of them. It then proceeds to demonstrate that although the geopolitical paradigm dominates in Russia, Russia has also reacted to the EU’s third liberalisation package, using legal and technocratic instruments, which are parts of the market approach. Each set of instruments has its institutional basis in Russia: the President, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) and Gazprom work in geopolitical ways but with frequent recourse to legal instruments, the Ministry of Economic Development (MED) promotes legal instruments and the Ministry of Energy (ME) is the centre of the technocratic activities, which Gazprom also frequently applies at present. This study therefore provides a more complex picture of Russian external energy policy. Moreover, it reveals a potential opening for a degree of policy convergence between the EU and Russia. In this context it is regrettable that legal and technocratic instruments were compromised as a result of the 2014 worsening in EU-Russian relations.
This volume examines the response of governments in the industrialized countries to the challenge of sustainable development. It focuses on the response of central governments in Australia, Canada, Germany, Japan, Norway, the Netherlands, Sweden, the UK, the USA, and the EU. The study shows that sustainable development has been integrated into governmental idiom in most jurisdictions, and has come to be associated with a series of changes to the structures and approaches deployed to manage environmental problems. Yet, it also reveals significant differences of interpretation and priority across the governments surveyed. The study pays particular attention to various understandings of sustainable development, institutional reform, government engagement with other societal actors, national plans and strategies, and the policy areas of climate change and biodiversity.