ECONOMY

Local energy hub in sight

Greek gas utility DEPA and its Turkish counterpart, Botas, are close to signing a cooperation agreement, paving the way for the construction of a natural gas pipeline between Greece and Turkey, according to Development Minister Akis Tsochadzopoulos. Greece has said it plans to invest 16 billion euros over the next eight years in order to realize its goal of becoming the energy hub for Southeastern Europe. The strategy includes constructing a natural gas pipeline connecting Greece with Turkey, an oil pipeline linking Greece with the Balkans and tapping the fuel resources of the Caspian countries. Greece is also hoping to become the transit point between the Caspian and Middle East countries and markets in the West. Speaking in Istanbul yesterday, Tsochadzopoulos said the two countries are close to signing a cooperation agreement on construction of a natural gas conduit, 80 km (50 miles) of which will be in Greece and 200 km (124 miles) on Turkish territory. The project is estimated to cost $300 million, with the European Commission expected to finance half of the exploration costs and 20 percent of the construction costs. The pipeline is expected to be ready in a couple of years. Apart from Azerbaijan and Iran, two other countries have expressed interest in using the pipeline, Tsochadzopoulos said. The minister said Brussels has also agreed to finance the trans-Balkan energy distribution grid on the same terms as the gas pipeline. He said the spate of projects «will help Greece become the energy hub in the region, either in natural gas or in electricity.» Courting investment