Stressing the country’s importance on southeast Europe’s energy map during his speech at an Economist energy conference in Athens today, Production Reconstruction, Environment and Energy Minister Panayiotis Lafazanis, while offering a rundown of his ministry’s actions to date and priorities, reiterated that the government’s objective is to establish Greece as a multi-dimensional energy hub.
Lafazanis also stressed that exclusive economic zones (EEZ) for offshore blocks need to be fairly established for the entire Mediterranean basin, beginning with the Aegean Sea and its southeast side.
The energy minister noted that a wider EEZ treaty proposal would need to be made and signed by all Mediterranean countries, obliging them to fully adhere to international law and international law of the sea.
“Such a policy would stigmatize possessions and arbitrary maritime claims and isolate accountable states,” Lafazanis remarked, adding that international law was currently not being respected by Turkey in Cyprus’s occupied north, the Aegean Sea, and the eastern Mediterranean, as well as by Israel in Gaza and Palestinian territories.
The energy minister once again backed the government’s decision to pursue an independent and multi-dimensional energy policy, whose factors include support for the TAP (Trans-Adriatic Pipeline) project, to supply Azeri gas to Europe via Greece; a Greek-Bulgarian interconnection; Greek Stream, the local segment of Turkish Stream, Russia’s latest proposal for gas supply to Europe via the south; East Med; as well as power grid interconnections in the region.
“We are not a pawn and satellite for anybody,” Lafazanis remarked.
Responding to a question on Turkish Stream, a plan that has not been embraced by the EU and the US, Lafazanis noted that contracts for Russian gas supply to Greece, as well as a market for this supply, already exist. He added that Greece would not have any objections if the pipeline, planned to run north, through the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (Fyrom), were to also branch out to Italy in the west.
Lafazanis noted that the government favors market liberalization and a healthy form of free trade, while adding that “liberalization does not mean degrading and eliminating the public sector from the energy market, nor does it mean breaking up and privatizing [power utility] PPC, IPTO [power grid operator], DEPA [the Public Gas Corporation], or ending the public sector’s ability to strongly intervene. This will not happen because it is not nationally beneficial. [Market liberalization] does not mean protecting private-sector interests and preferential treatment at the expense of the public sector, as is occuring in our country. This will stop.”