Energy set to be a focal point in Athens

Greece is becoming a focus point for energy developments in the coming months, as the visits to Athens this week by Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and European Commissioner for Energy Guenther Oettinger illustrate.

Athens is scheduled to take over the six-month rotating presidency of the European Union on January 1, 2014, with one of the main issues on the energy front being the examination by the European Commission’s competition authorities of Russian energy giant Gazprom’s dominant position in the supply of the European market with natural gas.

This start of that examination process, which coincides with the Greek presidency, is reported to be the focus of talks on Wednesday morning between Lavrov and Prime Minister Antonis Samaras in Athens, as the Russian side appears eager to explain its own position.

Gazprom as well as other issues that Athens will have to handle in the first half of next year will be on the agenda of the meetings that Oettinger will have in Athens in his two-day visit starting on Thursday, including a visit to the prime minister’s office.

The commissioner will also meet with Environment and Energy Minister Yiannis Maniatis and his deputy Makis Papageorgiou to discuss the opening up of the energy markets, the privatizations of the Public Gas Corporation (DEPA) and Public Power Corporation (PPC), and the developments on the hydrocarbons front, with an emphasis on the surveys in the Ionian Sea and south of Crete.

Brussels is known to hold high expectations for the Greek hydrocarbons, as they, along with those off the coast of Cyprus, are seen as an alternative source for the secure supply of the European market.

Oettinger will also ask to see evidence of the progress made on the issue of the cash deficit in the electricity market, with the focus being on the balancing of the accounts of renewable energy source companies, and on the process for the sale of a part of PPC’s production capacity and network.