23 May, 2008
With a clear, long-term energy strategy and new self-confidence, Greece has its own role to play in the global energy "puzzle", placing its own 'mosaic pieces' and comprising a crossroads of major energy corridors, development minister Christos Folias said Wednesday night, addressing the opening day of the 2nd SE Europe Energy Dialogue in Thessaloniki, Macedonia.
He said that the South Stream natural gas pipeline was slated for completion by 2015, adding that "we do not have the right to be simple observers of the developments, but rather we must be active players in the heart of the developments", and stressed that "we are taking advantage of new opportunities".
Folias explained that energy supply was a prerequisite for economic growth, and energy balance was a prerequisite for peace.
Turning to natural gas consumption, he noted that it was estimated at 4.7 billion cubic meters per day, while in 2010 it was expected to exceed 7.0 billion cubic meters.
On the Burgas-Alexandroupolis oil pipeline, the minister reiterated that it would be operating supplementarily with respect to the Bosporus Straits.
Folias said that the Greek government's strategic choices were promoting the interests of the European partners, while also contributing to rendering the region of South East Europe into a contemporary transit hub.
The goal, he continued, was energy sufficiency and security, but also rendering Greece an international energy hub with a consolidated key position.
Regarding the liberalization of the energy market, Folias explained that "a deregulated market leads to more extroversion, investments, competitive prices, to the benefit of the consumer".
"The field of energy does not offer itself up for experimentation and opportunistic investments, but requires seriousness and responsibility, so that the outcome will be positive," Folias concluded.
Former German chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, speaking on Thursday at a conference on energy organized by the Lykourezos Lawyers Office and the Kelemenis and Associates Lawyers Company, said that "Greece's decision on the South Stream pipeline was correct."
Greece and Russia signed an agreement last month for the construction of a natural gas pipeline linking Russia, Bulgaria and Greece.
Schroeder analyzed his views on the issue of Europe's safe supply with adequate energy, referring to the North Stream and South Stream pipelines which, as he said, will contribute decisively in securing, at longterm, Europe's needs in natural gas.
He added that the North Stream and South Stream pipelines are not competitive against other pipelines, such as Nabucco.
"I am in favor of all the pipelines, since we need bigger quantities of natural gas," he said.
Asked whether he fears dependence on Russia, the former chancellor said that "since 25 percent of Russia's budget depends on energy exports, no Russian politician, unless he wishes to commit political suicide, will support ending this supply, since such a thing would create chaos in his country."
"The dependence, therefore, is mutual," he said, adding that "Greece's decision on the South Stream pipeline was correct."
Schroeder also expressed the view that Russia constitutes realistically the most safe supplier compared with others from Africa or the Middle East region.
"Russia has proved to be a reliable partner, for decades, and I am convinced that it will continue to be so in the future as well," he said.
On the question of the Nabucco pipeline project, Schroeder said that what is necessary for it to be productive is for it to carry natural gas from Iran as well but, as he noted, the European Union must overcome resistances on the part of the United States.
The German politician stressed that the greatest challenge for energy safety is related to developments in the Middle East (since 60 percent of the world's reserves are found there) and expressed support for the intensification of diplomatic efforts for peace in the region (with the participation of the EU and Russia) and for direct talks between the United States and countries in the region, such as Iran and Syria.
Source: Athens News Agency