At an informal debate among European Union energy ministers, Germany's partners in the 28-nation bloc spoke out against Russia's Nord Stream 2 pipeline plan to pump more gas directly from Russia's Baltic coast to Germany.
"We had a wider circle of EU member states that spoke out fairly forcefully or at least supported a European Commission mandate while at the same time affirming that they want more clear-cut answers to the questions that have been raised".
Critics of the plan include Nordic, Baltic and east European states, which believe it runs counter to a long-stated EU ambition to reduce dependence on Russian fuel and to prevent Moscow using energy supplies for political leverage.
German, French, Dutch and Austrian firms are helping to finance the €9.5 billion scheme led by Kremlin-controlled energy giant Gazprom, which is meant to double the volume of Russian gas pumped to Germany via the Baltic from 2019.
"I am definitely optimistic about getting the mandate, but I know this is just the beginning of the debate", Sefcovic added.
Thirteen EU nations voiced support on Monday for a proposal to empower the EU executive to negotiate with Russian Federation over objections to the pipeline, despite Germany's opposition.
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The project is created to double the amount of gas Russian Federation pumps to Germany via the Baltic Sea.
The incoming six-month Estonian EU presidency is expected to convene a working group to take things forward, the Maltese spokesman said.
In his letter, Paet said that the main aims of the EU Energy Union have been to diversify energy sources and supplies and to increase connections between EU member states.
Moscow says all the European Union sanctions, along with extensive U.S. measures, are both ineffective and counterproductive.
Adding to tensions is the threat of new USA sanctions on Russian Federation that would penalise Western firms involved in Nord Stream 2: Uniper, Wintershall, Shell, OMV and Engie. "Germany has commercial interests, but it needs to explain itself", one EU's senior official claimed.
He also stated that taking into account these directions of development and the now existing and well-functioning import infrastructure, the European Commission did not see the need for new gas import infrastructure the size of Nord Stream 2.