US diplo­macy to push for the Greek-Bul­gar­ian gas pipeline

Kathimerini English - - Focus - BY CHRYSSA LIAGGOU

The new de­lay in the nat­u­ral gas In­ter­con­nec­tor Greece-Bulgaria (IGB) pipeline pro­ject has brought about the mo­bi­liza­tion of US diplo­macy, with the ar­rival of a spe­cial en­voy in Athens for talks.

IGB was planned to en­sure an al­ter­na­tive sup­ply to Rus­sian nat­u­ral gas for Bulgaria through a linkup with the Trans Adri­atic Pipeline (TAP) that will carry Azeri gas, with the prospect of ad­di­tional in­ter­con­nect­ing pipe­lines up to Ro­ma­nia and Hungary, and pos­si­bly all the way north to the Baltic coun­tries.

Washington has sent its spe­cial en­voy and co­or­di­na­tor for in­ter­na­tional energy af­fairs, Amos Hochstein, to Athens, who will meet with Greek Energy Min­is­ter Panos Sk­ourletis this morn­ing. Af­ter that there will be a three-way meet­ing with the par­tic­i­pa­tion of Bul­gar­ian Energy Min­is­ter Te­menuzhka Petkova. Hochstein’s visit is deemed prepara­tory ahead of a for­mal visit by US Sec­re­tary of State John Kerry to Athens in Novem­ber.

The IGB pipeline is high on the US energy diplo­macy agenda due to the po­ten­tial in­de­pen­dence it of­fers to South­east­ern Euro­pean coun­tries from Rus­sian firm Gazprom’s gas. Through its con­nec- tion with TAP, IGB will link the Greek town of Ko­mo­tini with Bul­gar­ian city Stara Zagora. First Bulgaria, then Ro­ma­nia and Hungary, and later on the Baltic states will be able to re­ceive gas from Azer­bai­jan and from other sources in the Caspian Sea, not only from the gas com­ing via TAP through Greece, but also from the Greek net­work that could sup­ply those coun­tries with the liq­ue­fied nat­u­ral gas (LNG) stored at Revyt­housa. This is why the IGB pro­ject has been in­cluded among the Euro­pean Union pri­or­i­ties and re­sources of 45 mil­lion eu­ros have been set aside for its fund­ing.

The start of the pro­ject’s con- struc­tion de­pends on the de­ci­sion that man­ag­ing com­pany ICGB will make, though this was post­poned in May with­out a new date be­ing set. The Greek side cited tech­ni­cal de­tails for the post­pone­ment, but this co­in­cided with the visit of Sk­ourletis’s pre­de­ces­sor, Panayi­o­tis Lafaza­nis, to Moscow.

The US was not happy with the de­lay, but Hochstein has not rushed to Athens due to another de­vel­op­ment: ICGB has de­cided to ex­tend the mar­ket test process that started in May 2013, cit­ing un­cer­tain­ties, with its end re­main­ing open as it re­quires an agree­ment by the Greek and Bul­gar­ian reg­u­la­tors.

Washington has sent its spe­cial en­voy and co­or­di­na­tor for in­ter­na­tional energy af­fairs, Amos Hochstein, to Athens, where he will meet with Greek Energy Min­is­ter Panos Sk­ourletis this morn­ing.

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