Lafazanis: Energy sector will drive Greece out of recession

The country’s energy sector will help drive Greece out of the deep recession, Production Reconstruction, Environment and Energy Minister Panagiotis Lafazanis told an energy conference in Athens today.

Commenting on a bilateral agreement that was recently signed by Greece and Russia to make official their interest in developing “Greek Stream”, the local natural gas pipeline segment to be incorporated into the prospective Southern European Pipeline, Lafazanis said the project will be completed by the end of 2018.

The minister noted the pipeline’s construction will create about 20,000 jobs, offer fiscal benefits to the national economy as a result of significant revenues to be collected by the prospective Greek state company that will be established to co-manage the gas pipeline, and, on a wider scale, upgrade the country politically and geopolitically.

The Southern European Pipeline stands as an exemplary model of fair and balanced cooperation between countries, Lafanis noted, while adding its construction will be funded by Russian capital.

Lafazanis also told the conference – titled “Natural Gas Market Penetration in Greece” and organized by the ESCP Europe business school’s Research Center for Energy Managament (RCEM) – that total energy security and low-priced energy sources, which he described as key aspects for peace, stability and economic growth in Europe, stand as the ultimate objectives at his ministry.

The energy minister expressed hope that an international tender for exploration and exploitation of twenty offshore blocks in the Ionian Sea and south of Crete, whose deadline expires next week, on July 14, will produce desirable results. He rejected reports that a new deadline extension will be offered, as a result of the adverse market conditions, following an extension granted earlier this year.

Lafazanis also noted the government intends to further utilize the country’s lignite deposits, which he described as significant for Greece’s energy future.

The hard-line leftist, who heads the radical Left Platform wing within the coalition’s main party, Syriza, reiterated, yet again, that public energy corporations in Greece will not be privatized, while noting private-sector investments in the sector are welcome.

Offering his views on the bankruptcy-threatened country’s current economic turmoil as Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and his team appear to be pushing for a last-minute bailout deal with creditor representatives, Lafazanis noted that last weekend’s resounding “No” vote in the Greek referendum  – which rejected a previous round of harsh austerity measures proposed by lenders to Greece – would not be transformed into a humiliating “Yes” for a new agreement.

“Having reached this stage, we know that all options are difficult. However, the worst, or most exhausting, humiliating, and unbearable agreement of all would be one of surrender, plunder, and submission of the country and its people,” Lafazanis stressed. “We will never make this choice, not only because it would cause even greater hardship for Greek citizens, but also because it is a choice without any future prospects.”

Playing down the overall panic caused by the ongoing closure of Greek banks, which have now been closed for a week, the energy minister contended the country is not out of control, but instead has many options to choose from. The energy minister described a recent adjustment made by the European Central Bank (ECB) to the emergency liquidity assistance (ELA) mechanism for Greece, which prompted last week’s forced closure of local banks, as a criminal act.

Lafazanis said no nation and its people had been subjected to such degree of suffering and blackmail by “so-called partners” during a time of peace as Greece had over the last five or so years. “Greece can also win this major and unfair battle like so many others it has fought heroically and won in the past,” said Lafazanis.