Greece has received what The New York Times recently described as “dueling sales pitches” on two proposed natural gas pipelines.
One proposal comes from Russia, where the Kremlin is keen to use the tumultuous negotiations between Athens and creditors to advance Moscow’s energy and geopolitical interests. Moscow hopes to essentially buy Athens’ participation in the Turkish Stream pipeline which, as a reminder, will allow Russia to bypass Bulgaria by piping gas through Turkey, then through Greece, Serbia, and Hungary straight to the Austrian central hub.
Some have suggested over the past several months that Athens may be able to secure an advance on its potential profits from the pipeline, thus giving Greece some much needed breathing room in what have a series of suffocating negotiations with the troika. This would suit Vladimir Putin just fine as it would allow him to solve the South Stream ‘problem’ while securing a Greco-Russo economic and energy alliance just as Europe debates how to proceed with regard to the conflict in Ukraine. For its part, Europe has responded by filing antitrust charges against Gazprom.
The US proposal involves The Southern Gas Corridor, a project aimed at “improving the diversity of the EU’s energy supply” — in other words, it’s an attempt to help break Gazprom’s stranglehold. Essentially, the corridor will allow the EU to tap into Caspian gas via a series of connecting pipelines running from Azerbaijan to Italy.
(The US-endorsed pipeline project)
Early last month, US State Department envoy Amos Hochstein met with Greek foreign minister Nikos Kotzia to make the pitch and told Greece that participating in The Southern Gas Corridor would help make the country attractive to investors again.
(Hochstein and Kotzia in May)
It appears Moscow may have made the better sales pitch (or perhaps it was the fact that Russia lobbied Athens far more aggressively) because Greece is set to sign an MOU for the Greek portion of The Turkish Stream pipeline in June.
RT has more:
Greece plans to sign a document on political support for Gazprom’s Turkish Stream project at the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum in June, its Energy Minister announced on Monday. The country plans to invest $2 billion in its construction.
A memorandum on political support for the gas pipeline project will be prepared by June 18-20, when the International Economic Forum (SPIEF-2015) will be held in Russia’s St. Petersburg, Greek Energy Minister Panagiotis Lafazanis announced on Monday…
Greece’s part of the pipeline, which will be delivering Russia’s gas on from the Turkish border, will cost some $2 billion, Lafazanis said in an interview with the Rossiya24 channel. The minister said that a Greek state company will be involved in the project, adding that there has been “big interest” from many companies wishing to take part in the construction and future operation of the pipeline…
The new pipeline, which Gazprom plans to build from Turkey to the border with Greece, will be part of the Turkish Stream project aimed at delivering Russian gas to Europe without the participation of Ukraine. Russia intends to completely abandon its gas supplies through Ukraine by 2019. The EU would construct the pipelines leading further on from Greece.
According to Lafazanis, the Western-backed proposal and The Turkish Stream are not competitors and Greece will, if it can, participate in both initiatives.
Via The Greek Reporter:
“We do not considered them to be rivals. On the contrary, we think they both contribute to energy supply of European countries. That’s why it is odd that the Russian project is raising concern and doubts in the US and the European Union. We will not submit to the interests and wishes of any third country. Greece is nobody’s property. We move based on the interests of our people and our national interests. The country must become a development hub for Europe’s energy supply."
The US and Europe of course do not see things that way as indicated by the following quote from The US Embassy in Athens:
The United States is concerned that Greek consideration of an extension of a “Turkstream” pipeline across Greece will not increase energy diversification, may be of concern to EU competition authorities, and is not a long-term solution to Greece’s energy needs.
Essentially, Greece and the West have just suffered a bad breakup, and the West is not keen on Greece dating anyone else for the foreseeable future and so presumes to exercise a kind of post-split overbearing paternalism to ensure Athens can fend for itself in a world occupied by anti-NATO vultures who have been circling for the better part of six months. Greece, however, is prepared to make its own way.
Or, as Vladimir Putin puts it: "
"Just because Greece is debt-ridden, this does not mean it is bound hand and foot, and has no independent foreign policy."