Greece sees backing for energy plans in European Council conclusions

The Greek government appeared satisfied with the outcome of Wednesday’s European Union leaders’ summit in Brussels as it appeared to back the government’s plans for gas and oil exploration in the Aegean.

The summit focused on energy issues and tax evasion. Greek sources said the government was pleased by the references the European Council made to the diversification of Europe’s energy supply in its conclusions.

“The Commission intends to assess a more systematic recourse to on-shore and off-shore indigenous sources of energy with a view to their safe, sustainable and cost-effective exploitation while respecting member states’ choices of energy mix,” the leaders said.

Greece believes that this gives it the backing it needs to move forward with plans to declare an exclusive economic zone in the Aegean and to search for oil and gas reserves.

“For the first time there is a clear reference to the exploitation of internal energy reserves, which is an issue that interests Greece and Cyprus because there are strong indications that there are notable reserves in the Greek continental shelf, just as reserves have been discovered in the Cypriot continental shelf,” said Prime Minister Antonis Samaras after the summit.

Sources added that during the meeting Samaras made special reference to the Greek islands when leaders reaffirmed their commitment to complete the internal energy market by 2014 and ensuring all member states are connected to gas and electricity networks. Greece is hoping to obtain EU funding to connect its islands to the grid, which could save the government 400 million euros a year.

In terms of fighting tax evasion, EU leaders agreed to end bank secrecy in the 27-nation bloc as lenders would be automatically obliged to exchange information.

Samaras reportedly assured his counterparts of his government’s commitment to tackling tax evasion, which is one of the reforms on which Greece’s lenders have consistently been urging greater progress.

Samaras is due to welcome his Irish counterpart Enda Kenny to Athens on Thursday. Dutch Finance Minister Jeroen Dijsellbloem, who also heads the Eurogroup, is also expected in the Greek capital soon.