Is fac­ing stiff re­sis­tance

Financial Mirror (Cyprus) - - FRONT PAGE -

Greece’s Prime Min­is­ter, Alexis Tsipras, met with Pres­i­dent Putin and Gazprom’s lead­er­ship and agreed for the Turk­ish Stream to be ex­tended through Greece, with a 450 km pipe­line to be known as Greek Stream which will trans­verse north­ern Greece and connect with an­other pipe­line, known as Tesla, which will run through FYROM, Ser­bia and Hun­gary and will end in Baum­garten in Aus­tria with the aim of sup­ply­ing the main Euro­pean gas mar­kets. Moscow is now busy fi­nal­is­ing de­tails with Athens for the rout­ing of the Greek Stream but also in pro­vid­ing fi­nanc­ing for its con­struc­tion.

Should the Greek Stream be even­tu­ally built, and with the TAP pipe­line al­ready sched­uled to cross Greek ter­ri­tory, and with a 180 km gas in­ter­con­nec­tor pipe­line to connect Greece and Bul­garia, known as IGB, con­struc­tion of which will also start early in 2016, north­ern Greece is likely to be­come con­gested with a plexus of gas pipe­lines. If we are to add two float­ing LNG ter­mi­nals, pro­moted by Greek DEPA and Gastrade, to be moored off the towns of Kavala and Alexan­droupo­lis, and a Gas Trade Hub to be set up to han­dle gas sup­ply in the re­gion, Greece’s geopo­lit­i­cal po­si­tion is to be greatly en­hanced as a ris­ing re­gional hub. This ap­pears to be pre­cisely the goal of Greece’s present po­lit­i­cal lead­er­ship which is try­ing hard to dif­fer­en­ti­ate its po­si­tion from EUs­tated en­ergy pol­icy which is dead against the ex­pan­sion of Rus­sia’s plans to de­velop fur­ther its gas in­fra­struc­ture in SE Europe. It is cer­tainly a co­in­ci­dence, if not a para­dox, that Greece’s strong­est ally in this plan is Turkey which be­ing out­side the EU, although largely con­nected with a can­di­date mem­ber agree­ment, can af­ford to defy EU poli­cies.

In Greece’s case the odds are against the gov­ern­ment’s plans to de­velop the coun­try as an en­ergy hub given strong op­po­si­tion from the EC and Brussels from whom the gov­ern­ment is to­tally de­pen­dent for fur­ther fi­nan­cial as­sis­tance in the form of a new bailout ex­pected to be agreed within June. Con­found­ing EU’s op­po­si­tion to Greece’s bold en­ergy plans is the US gov­ern­ment’s stern warn­ing to Greece not to en­ter­tain any fur­ther plans for en­gage­ment with Rus­sia in de­vel­op­ing the Turk­ish Stream project and its pas­sage through Greece. Dur­ing a visit to Athens on May 7, Amos Hochstein, spe­cial en­voy and co­or­di­na­tor for In­ter­na­tional En­ergy Af­fairs at the US Depart­ment of State, and fol­low­ing a meet­ing with Greece’s Min­is­ter for En­ergy, Panay­otis Lafaza­nis, ex­pressed his con­cern that an ex­ten­sion of a “Turkstream” pipe­line across Greece will not help in­crease en­ergy di­ver­si­fi­ca­tion, while it may also be of con­cern to EU com­pe­ti­tion au­thor­i­ties, and there­fore does not con­sti­tute a long-term so­lu­tion to Greece’s en­ergy needs.

The USA’s neg­a­tive stance on Greece’s am­bi­tions to el­e­vate it­self as a ma­jor re­gional hub, whereby TAP and Turk­ish Stream may co­ex­ist as part for an en­larged South Cor­ri­dor, has to be seen in con­text with the lat­est moves by Brussels to un­seat Gazprom from its com­mand­ing po­si­tion as the EU’s main gas sup­plier. Fol­low­ing the lev­el­ling of of­fi­cial anti-trust ac­cu­sa­tions against Gazprom by the EC on April 22, an open trade war is now in full swing be­tween Brussels and Moscow as Europe tries to cur­tail Rus­sia’s in­flu­ence and strong­hold on the con­ti­nent’s en­ergy sup­plies. Ac­cord­ing to in­de­pen­dent ob­servers, the fe­roc­ity of this war is such that in the process the am­bi­tions and plans of small and prob­lem­atic play­ers such as Greece will eas­ily be smashed.

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