Athens sees good news in the pipeline

Greek government officials expressed optimism on Tuesday that the Trans Adriatic Pipeline (TAP) project will be Azerbaijan’s choice for the transmission of natural gas to Western Europe over rival Nabucco West, with the verdict from Baku to be delivered to Athens on Wednesday by representatives of the consortium operating the Shah Deniz reserve in the former Soviet republic.

In a climate of hopeful anticipation generated by favorable news reports for the pipeline that would pass through Greece, a mission led by British Petroleum’s vice president for Shah Deniz, Al Cook, and the president of the Azeri state energy company Socar, Rovnag Abdullayev (or his deputy Elshad Nasirov), will visit Greece on Wednesday to directly inform Prime Minister Antonis Samaras of Baku’s final choice.

Later in the day the mission will take part in a special event for the signing of the Host Government Agreement for the TAP project. It will be signed by Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras, Deputy Energy Minister Asimakis Papageorgiou and TAP Managing Director Kjetil Tungland.

“We are very near, but the issue is not yet closed,” a government official said on Tuesday referring to Greece’s expectation for TAP to carry Azeri gas to Western Europe, thereby raising the country’s energy profile.

Outgoing Albanian Prime Minister Sali Berisha implied last Friday that the decision that also concerns Albania will be in favor of TAP, while Romanian media reported yesterday that government sources in Bucharest said, “TAP has 90 to 95 percent won the race with Nabucco.”

This came on the back of reports that the Shah Deniz consortium – consisting of BP, Statoil, Total and Socar – had reached its decision last Thursday. On Friday the president of Azerbaijan, Ilham Aliyev, visited Brussels and informed European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso of the decision.

On Tuesday the New Europe news agency reported that a high-level official in the Azeri capital had confirmed that TAP is the pipeline of choice for the Shah Deniz consortium, which will make its formal announcements on Friday after informing Athens, Rome, Tirana and the countries involved in the Nabucco West project.