Is facing stiff resistance
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.