Friday, March 3, 2017

US backs Greece’s efforts to build EU energy connections

MARCH 3, 2017, 18:42
Kostis Geropoulos

DELPHI, Greece – The United States strongly supports Greece’s efforts to build its energy connections with Europe, US Ambassador to Athens Geoffrey Pyatt told the Delphi Economic Forum on March 3.

“Projects like TAP (the Trans Adriatic Pipeline), the Bulgaria-Greece-Interconnector (IGB), Revythousa (LNG terminal) and the proposed FSRU (Floating Storage Regasification Unit) near Alexandroupolis all help cement Greece’s critical role in transforming the energy security in southeast Europe and will help drive economic growth in the years ahead,” Pyatt said.

Newly found reserves in the East Mediterranean could also help boost Europe’s energy security. A solution to the Cyprus issue could facilitate the export of hydrocarbons from the East Med, German Marshall Fund Vice President Ian Lesser told New Europe on the sidelines of the Delphi forum.
“For any American administration, there will always be an interest to try to solve this problem. The question is how much time and effort they will be willing to devote to it. In the previous administration there was a kind of very special constituency that was interested in being involved and knew a lot about it. In particular the Vice President (Joe) Biden felt a sort of special commitment to the Cyprus issue and that will be very difficult to duplicate,” Lesser said. “That said, I don’t think any American administration is going to turn aside from the opportunity to bring some good news in a region that’s not producing very much,” he added.

Asked if it would it facilitate energy exports from the East Med, Lesser said to the extent that you can stabilise the geopolitics of the region it will be easier for all the different actors to monetize their investment in these resources. “It will be very difficult to extract them at the best possible way if you cannot do this in an integrated fashion. And so there is a convergence naturally between the security interests and the economic interests, if you can make that happen, especially for exports but even to be used regionally,” Lesser said.

Lesser said the major driver is the stake of the regional actors in being able to get the most out of the region’s energy resources. “You simply won’t be able to do it if the regional countries are at loggerheads over political and security issues. Now whether these political and security issues can be put aside is a very difficult question,” Lesser said.

Responding to a question from New Europe, the head of European Studies Department of IMEMO in Moscow, Nadia Arbatova, told a roundtable on the new strategic equation in the Eastern Med in Delphi that although Russia has developed energy cooperation with Turkey, “we have been almost rivals in this sector because Russia was interested and it is still interested to increase Turkey’s dependence on Russia and to prevent construction of new pipelines that bypass Russia”. On the contrary, Ankara wants to decrease dependence on Russia and to diversify supply routes. “I don’t think that energy cooperation can be a solution for stability in the region because too many contradicting interests are involved,” the Russian scholar said. As far as the newly found gas reserves in the East Med, they won’t shake Russia’s position as a main producer and exporter of energy, she said.