The senior MEP’s intervention risks putting Brussels on a fresh collision course with Angela Merkel over the controversial Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline project. Mr Verhofstadt hit out on social media after German federal prosecutors charged a man with passing blueprints and building plans of Berlin’s Bundestag parliament building to a suspected GRU agent in the Russian Embassy in the city.
The man, identified only as Jens F, obtained PDF files with the floor plans during the course of his work for a company that was hired to maintain electrical equipment in the Bundestag’s buildings, the prosecutor’s office said in a statement.
Mr Verhofstadt tweeted: “If the media recently started to read like a John le Carré novel, it’s time to get our act together on Russia.
“Putin demands the EU to be strong, consistent and united!”
The spy row and Mr Verhofstadt’s tweet about EU standing up to Russia could further strain ties between Moscow and Berlin and strengthen the hand of opponents of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline that will link Russia and Germany under the Baltic Sea.
Critics, including new US President Joe Biden, have warned the project heightens Germany’s dependence on energy from an unreliable and potentially hostile partner.
Two opposition parties in the Bundestag, the Greens and the liberal Free Democrats, are also campaigning to bring it to a halt.
And Norbert Röttgen, the leading foreign policy expert of Angela Merkel’s centre-right Christian Democratic Union, describes it as an “instrument of political war”.
READ MORE: Angela Merkel FIRES BACK at Macron over Russia pipeline controversy
But Ms Merkel has stood by Nord Stream 2, insisting it is commercial rather than a political project and vowing to ensure work on the pipeline is finished.
Nord Stream 2 has also faced increased scrutiny as European relations with Russia have deteriorated over the treatment of Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny.
The European Parliament called last month for the EU to stop the pipeline being completed in response to Mr Navalny’s arrest.
Brussels bosses have insisted the EU does not need the Nord Stream 2 pipeline for its energy security but said any decision to stop the project carrying Russian natural gas to Germany would have to come from Berlin.
Ms Juul Jorgensen said any decision to halt the project would need to be made by Germany,
She said: “Actually stopping the construction would require a decision at national level. It’s not a decision that can be taken at European level.”
EU foreign ministers agreed to impose sanctions on four senior Russian officials close to President Vladimir Putin in a mainly symbolic move over the issue.