Energy sector changes

The inauguration in a few weeks of the Greek-Turkish gas pipeline, which is planned to be extended to Italy by 2012, and the estimated completion by 2011 of the Bourgas-Alexandroupolis oil pipeline definitely look set to upgrade Greece’s position on the geopolitical chessboard, from being a mere consumer of energy products. Nevertheless, we should be wary of great expectations. Besides the fact that the completion of the two projects is still some years away, there also remains some likelihood that they will never be completed, given the complexity of the broader geoeconomic environment. Moreover, geostrategic factors are constantly changing. Once marginalized Turkmenistan is now rising in importance in central Asia and its international relations are improving – mainly with Azerbaijan, the key player in the region. Kazhakstan’s oil reserves are proving much larger than originally estimated, as are Caspian Sea reserves. Furthermore, American efforts to streamline fuel supply lines are also changing. For instance, the time when Turkey was the US’s darling in the area is long gone and the country is no longer a privileged pipeline route. This also has a negative impact on Greece’s geopolitical importance. Against this background, Brussels has appointed a special mediator for the Nabucco natural gas pipeline, planned to be constructed in countries north of Greece, but has not paid any serious attention to the Turkey-Greece-Italy project. The pundits say there is a real war going on between northern and southern Europeans in the energy domain and the situation is further complicated by American and Russian rivalry. Nevertheless, Greece is the oldest EU member in the region and its considerable experience is valuable for itself and its neighbors. If it manages to strike strategic alliances with producer countries it will be able to assume the role of an important mediator between them and the rest of the EU. But for this to happen, such strategic alliances must be pursued energetically. The historical ties with Arab nations are no longer as significant, now is the time of Russia and central Asia. At the same time, the European Union as a whole must imbue its energy policy with continuity and is in need of a strong central regulatory authority. But the main goal should be to abandon piecemeal pursuits and policies. A serious energy policy needs a continuous forum for consultations among nations and companies, for strategies and energy projects.

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