Gov’t doesn’t see excessive dependence on Russian gas

The government said yesterday fears that Greece’s participation in the South Stream pipeline, which will carry Russian natural gas westward, would increase its dependence on one source was based on «inadequate briefing.» Russia and Greece agreed in Moscow last week that one branch of the pipeline, entering from Bulgaria, will supplement Greek gas requirements and be extended to Italy. Greece already receives quantities of Russian gas from energy giant Gazprom, while another pipeline, carrying gas from the Caspian Sea region through Turkey, is under construction and will eventually also reach Italy, the so-called Turkey-Greece-Italy (TGI) pipeline. Last week, US Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs Matthew Bryza was reported to have expressed concern in an unofficial memorandum that the South Stream agreement will deepen Greece’s dependence on Russia, adding that the US favors TGI as «a means for achieving Athens’s goal of differentiating its natural gas supplies.» «The two pipelines are complementary. Neither cancels out the other. We need both,» Development Minister Christos Folias told a press briefing. He said Greece now covers 77 percent of its gas requirements with imports from Russia but this is projected to fall to below 50 percent by 2013, when consumption needs are projected to have doubled. «We do not differ with the USA. We fully agree that the goal is the prevention of monopolist or monopsonist situations. If you depend on one, you are a loser from the start,» Folias said. He said a meeting is being planned in Athens soon of representatives from Turkey, Greece, Italy and Azerbaijan to thrash out further details of the TGI pipeline, which will carry Azeri gas. In the non-paper, Bryza was said to have made it clear that the US considers South Stream as an attempt to by the Kremlin to add Greece to the web of energy dependence it is trying to create in Europe. Nevertheless, he was quoted as saying, «We believe that Athens remains faithful to the policy for implementing TGI as the next gas pipeline and of top priority.» Folias said TGI will be operational by 2012, while South Stream will not be finished before 2015 at the earliest.