Greek-Italian cooperation deal for energy lacking weight

Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and his Italian counterpart Paolo Gentiloni are expected to sign a declaration of cooperation in support of the East Med, Greek Stream and IGB projects at a meeting in Corfu today.

The Greek government, seeking to present an image of strong investment interest in Greece at present, would have preferred more content in this package. No Italian company managers are planned to join Gentiloni and his team on this trip.

The Italian head of state’s delegation will not include any Italian energy-sector officials representing Eni, Edison or Enel, all active in the Greek market, to a varying degree.

Besides the aforementioned pipeline projects, today’s declaration pales in comparison to the commitments made between Greece and France during French President Emmanuel Macron’s official two-day visit to Athens last week.

The pipeline projects declaration of cooperation between Greece and Italy to be signed today was prepared in Rome last week by the Greek energy ministry’s secretary general Mihalis Veriopoulos and Carlo Calenda, Italy’s minister of economic development.

The development of East Med, a 6.2 billion-euro project planned to transmit natural gas along a route stretching from Israel to Europe, will hold a key place in the bilateral declaration of cooperation to be signed on Corfu today.

An East Med agreement between Greece, Cyprus, Israel and Italy is expected to be signed in Cyprus towards the end of this year.

Italian officials are also especially interested in the Greek Stream project – also referred to as Turkish Stream for its Turkish section. A memorandum of understanding (MoU) signed by Russia’s Gazprom and Italy’s Eni last March for natural gas supply through the Southern Corridor has added momentum to the Greek Stream prospect.

For quite some time now, Italian authorities have sought to relocate the delivery point of Russian natural gas from Italy’s north – at the border with Austria – to the country’s south, a prospect that has bought the development of Greek Stream back into the wider picture. This pipeline option would involve a Greek-Turkish border connection with the prospective Poseidon pipeline, an older plan envisaged to run through Greece and reach southern Italy via a submarine Adriatic Sea crossing. Its capacity could reach 15 to 20 billion cubic meters annually.

Also at today’s Corfu meeting, Greek energy minister Giorgos Stathakis is expected to discuss issues concerning the neighboring country’s existing energy-sector investements in Greece with Calenda, Italy’s economic development minister.

Eni’s role in the EPA Thessaloniki and EPA Thessaly gas supply companies, Enel’s place in the RES sector, Greek hydrocarbon developments – Edison is involved – and opportunities offered by the Greek electricity market’s ongoing liberalization effort will all be on the agenda.

Stathakis may even seek Italian support for a market test concerning the main power utility PPC’s upcoming sale package of lignite units, despite the absence of France’s EdF, Edison’s parent company, from Macron’s delegation in Athens last week.