ECONOMY

Greece has agreed to join South Stream pipeline, says minister

Greece has agreed to join the Kremlin-backed South Stream gas pipeline project, further boosting energy ties with Russia, Development Minister Christos Folias said yesterday. The pipeline, which will be jointly built by Gazprom and Italy’s ENI, will eventually take 30 billion cubic meters (bcm) of Russian gas a year to Southern Europe, with Greece becoming a transit state on the southern arm of the pipeline pumping gas to Italy. Analysts have said the project, which aims to link Gazprom’s Siberian gas fields with Europe and is seen as a competitor to the EU, US-backed Nabucco pipeline, will cost around 10 billion euros. «We have agreed to be part of the South Stream project,» Folias told Reuters in an interview. «We are now discussing technical details to formulate a document that we can then sign. The political will is there from both sides (Russia and Greece). That is a given.» Folias said he did not view the long-stalled Nabucco pipeline, designed to eventually pump 25-30 bcm a year from Turkey to Austria, as a competitor to the South Stream project, which will run from Russia via a 900-km underwater pipeline across the Black Sea to Europe. «I don’t want to see them as athletes competing against each other,» he said. «I would say they complement each other and offer Europe multiple energy providers, which is good.» Expanding partnerships Fellow Balkan nations Serbia and Bulgaria, as well as Hungary, recently joined the South Stream project. But Washington, fearful of Russia’s tightening grip on the European energy market, has urged countries, including Greece, to diversify their energy providers to avoid depending too much on Russia. Folias, who has also had talks on gas provision with several other countries, including Azerbaijan and Algeria, said he did not think Greece was increasing its energy dependence on Moscow by joining South Stream. «Russia is a very big energy player and the positive ties we currently enjoy can only be a good thing,» he said. Folias said a 950-million-euro Russian-Bulgarian-Greek oil pipeline, agreed upon last year after 14 years of negotiations, would also soon enter its construction phase. «By the end of the year, the studies, the planned route and the tender for its construction will be completed,» Folias said of the Burgas-Alexandroupolis pipeline. This 280-km (174-mile) project aims to bypass the traffic-clogged Bosporus Strait, pumping oil into the Aegean port of Alexandroupolis from the Bulgarian Black sea port of Burgas. «This project is now on its way,» Folias said. «The company has been set up, it is operating and this project does not need governments any more.»