Time is ripe for investments, PM highlights at TAP launch

Development of the TAP (Trans Adriatic Pipeline) project, to carry Azeri natural gas to Europe via a route including Greece’s north, combined with the anticipated completion of the first review of Greece’s third bailout package by international lenders, promises to pave the way towards major investments in the country, Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras noted during his speech at a ceremony held in Thessaloniki today, marking the launch of construction work for TAP’s Greek segment.

“The hope that we are overcoming the [recession’s] most difficult stage and opening up to the prospect of stability removes a sense of uncertainty that has surrounded the Greek economy and also creates a stable environment for attracting investments,” Tsipras remarked at the TAP ceremony.

Tsipras predicted economic growth from the second half of 2016 and onwards, noted that Greece’s unemployment rate is now de-escalating, and added that the next tranche of bailout money would be used to also cover amounts owed by the State to citizens, all of which would gradually put Greece on a path of sustainable growth, according to the Prime Minister.

Tsipras said the TAP project was justifiably regarded as one of the world’s biggest energy projects at present, adding that it could be interconnected with other existing and future pipelines for access to more markets. He cited the prospective Greek-Bulgarian IGB interconnector as an example, noting its development will serve as a bridge to supply natural gas to central and east Europe.

The Prime Minister once again stressed that Greece is developing into a multidimensional energy hub along with the transformation of southeast Europe’s energy map. He cited the IGB, the prospective LNG floating station in Alexandroupoli, northeastern Greece, and the current upgrade of the existing LNG facility in Rethythoussa, an islet close to Athens, as developments that are reshaping the country’s production potential.

Tsipras pointed out that the TAP project’s budget for the local segment is worth over two billion euros and promises to create 8,000 jobs in Greece.

The project’s development comes at a critical time for the region as “Caucasus and central Mediterranean countries are being called upon to bolster stability and cooperation in an area of conflict,” Tsipras said.

He ranked the TAP project as the biggest foreign investment in Greece, highlighting the involvement of Greek firms and resulting lower energy costs for enterprises.

Georgia’s Prime Minister Giorgi Kvirikashvili, who attended the ceremony, said the TAP project will create a total of 30,000 jobs in the countries it will cross.

Azerbaijan’s First Deputy Prime Minister Yaqub Eyyubov made reference to the role to be played by the Southern Corridor as an alternative energy source, noting it will support the European plan for diversified energy sources and increased energy security.

Ian Bradshaw, the TAP project’s managing director, also made note of the pipeline’s role in diversifying the EU’s energy sources and also took the opportunity to thank Greece’s Prime Minister and the Greek State for the support offered.

Maros Sefcovic, the European Commission vice president responsible for Energy Union, who delivered his speech in the Greek language, described the day as historic and the Southern Corridor as the biggest energy project being carried out at present.

The project’s significance was also underlined by Amos Hochstein, the US Special Envoy and Coordinator for International Energy Affairs, who relayed a message from John Kerry, the Secretary of State. “Completion of the Southern Corridor must stand as a priority in order to ensure energy security. The US supports this project which offers new hope for stability in the region,” Hochstein remarked. “The pipeline can make a difference in the region and help areas that face serious issues with monopoly-related problems,” he added.

Turkish energy minister Berat Albayrak stressed that TAP, along with the TANAP project, will supply greater amounts of natural gas to the region. “We are ready to discuss all the economically feasible projects to support energy diversification,” Albayrak said.

Italy’s minister of economic development, Carlo Calenda, said the Italian government has actively supported the TAP project and recently granted permits for the project’s development.

Bulgarian energy minister Temenuzhka Petkova informed that Bulgaria’s government is placing great emphasis on the Greek-Bulgarian IGB interconnector, to be linked to the TAP pipeline. The second round of a market test for the IGB will begin in June, she noted.