ECONOMY

Gas pipeline will connect Greece to Balkans, Austria

Next Monday and Tuesday, representatives of the Public Gas Corporation (DEPA), Turkey’s Botas and Austria’s OMV will meet with natural gas companies from the Balkan states in Thessaloniki. The purpose is to sign a memorandum that would allow the construction of a pipeline to carry natural gas from Thessaloniki to Austria. The signing of the memorandum will enhance Greece’s position as a transit center for the distribution of oil, arriving mainly from the Caspian Sea, to central and western European markets. The Thessaloniki-Austria project is part of a broader plan which calls for the transit of natural gas from the Caspian Sea and Persian Gulf, through Turkey and Greece, to Western Europe. The route that will be decided in Thessaloniki will almost certainly pass through the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM), Serbia and Montenegro, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia and Slovenia, before crossing into Austria. A branch will most likely pass through Albania. DEPA, Botas and OMV have shown initial interest in the project and have agreed to undertake a preliminary study. Along the way, discussions were held with FYROM’s Makpetrol, Serbia’s Nis-Gas, Bosnia and Herzegovina’s BH Gas, Croatia’s Plinacro and Slovenia’s Geoplin. Albania’s Ministry of Industry and Energy was also involved in the discussion. All parties showed great interest in the project and agreed to meet in Thessaloniki. This project is not a rival to the agreed construction of a gas pipeline connecting Greece and Italy, Greek officials say, but a complementary project. It involves the construction of a 280-kilometer (174-mile) pipeline through western Macedonia and Epirus and a further 224-kilometer (138-mile) undersea segment to Otranto, Italy. Italian energy company Edison has taken a great interest in the project, which is at the preliminary study stage. This new network of natural gas pipelines, which will enhance Greece’s strategic importance, has the support of the European Union, which is looking for alternative sources of gas supply. [At present, the European Union is almost exclusively dependent on Russia for its gas supplies, as is Greece, which is supplied by a pipeline through Bulgaria and also imports liquefied natural gas from Algeria. Years of haggling with the Russians over the price of natural gas have set back its distribution across local networks in Greece. This led the Greek government to negotiate with Turkey for the construction of a pipeline linking the two countries’ natural gas networks. The pipeline, which will begin west of the town of Bursa, in northwest Turkey, will cross the Dardanelles and end near the city of Komotini, in northeastern Greece. Turkey also recently negotiated with Iran to construct a pipeline linking the two countries.]