EU warning on gas dependence

The European Union energy commissioner, Andris Piebalgs, indicated that the bloc was not entirely happy with the Greek government’s handling of natural gas supply issues, at a press conference held in Athens yesterday. He stated that the Turkey-Greece-Italy gas pipeline, which he described as a «historic achievement,» should «involve natural gas from the Caspian.» «Europe should not proceed toward a greater dependence on Gazprom’s natural gas. We should diversify. .. and try to get gas from any supplier, Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan, Iraq and Iran in the future,» he said when asked about the bloc’s reliance on Russian gas. «The problem is not Russia, the problem is that Gazprom is a monopoly supplier,» he explained. The commissioner’s general position regarding natural gas supply appeared to be disapproving of Greek intentions to meet domestic gas demand up to 2040 through Gazprom, as these were made official during the visit to Athens of the Russian company’s chief executive, Alexei Miller. Piebalgs however expressed his full support and satisfaction with developments relating to the construction of the Burgas-Alexandroupolis pipeline, noting that it offered Europe an alternative route for oil conveyance. «I strongly encourage Greece to continue diversifying its energy sources, not just for Greece, but for Europe as a whole,» he said after a meeting with Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis. He also voiced his approval for the interconnections being advanced by the Development Ministry and the policy on electricity market liberalization and the promotion of Renewable Energy Sources (RES), expressing his certainty that Greece would meet Kyoto environmental targets. «The main chance for the EU to achieve its objectives on climate change is to have a well-connected internal market with third countries bordering us,» he stated. Development Minister Dimitris Sioufas said after his meeting with the commissioner that Greece would spend more than 4.5 billion euros up to 2010 on investments in biofuels and other RES, since this would create «a better environment for our future generations.» Piebalgs promised to closely examine the Greek and Italian demand concerning a 20-year exemption from the use of the Greek-Italian pipeline by third companies as well as a 20-year exemption on the setting up of three Gas Supply Companies by the Public Gas Corporation (DEPA). Piebalgs also expressed satisfaction with the measures taken by the Development Ministry to avoid the possibility of a blackout in the summer.

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