US energy secretary underlines significance of pipeline

The United States has firmly supported the construction of the Turkey-Greece Inter-Connector (TGI) pipeline. It is no coincidence that yesterday’s ceremony was attended by US Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman and the new US Ambassador in Athens Daniel Speckhard, in his first public engagement since arriving in Greece last week. In a speech at the Kipi bridge crossing on the Evros River yesterday, Bodman described the new energy supply link as a «significant development, one that builds a critical new energy bridge between the East and West. Its presence marks the beginning of a market expansion leading to a diversification for consumers and suppliers – who will all benefit from the resulting competition.» «This project is remarkable in many ways, not least of which is the technical and financial complexity involved in its construction,» added Bodman. «Building this pipeline also required a regional consensus, complex environmental analyses, and a lengthy and productive dialogue with all of the communities along the entire route.» Congratulating those who have provided the leadership necessary to begin this project and bring it to its successful conclusion, including Prime Minister Karamanlis and Prime Minister Erdogan, he said the pipeline provided a «vital new energy supply link that underscores the new ways of doing business in Central Asia, a region full of new energy partners.» «Change almost always involves some element of risk. The leaders here today represent the region’s new energy partners who understand that the best way to achieve long-term energy security for their countries is through the establishment of competitive energy markets,» he said. The energy secretary described the TGI as a «critical first step in a new energy supply chain; and it comes on line at a critically important time. The European Union is the world’s biggest gas import market – and one of the world’s fastest growing. It is reasonable to expect that Europe’s dependence on energy imports will continue to grow over the next 25 years – meaning that Azerbaijan and the rest of Central Asia is poised to become Europe’s newest main source of supply, alongside the North Sea region, Russia, and North Africa.» «For Central Asia – and for Europe – this presents a real opportunity, but one that will only be realized through the continued cooperation of all the potential stakeholders. The development of new projects over considerable distances is costly; they will need to be undertaken on a large scale if they are to be commercially viable. New partners – including Turkmenistan and Kazakhstan – need to be brought into negotiations and the EU will need to open up its gas markets to competition,» concluded Bodman, who called for «a firm commitment to move forward toward the creation of a strong and growing coalition of partners dedicated to establishing Central Asia as the next great European energy supplier.» A week ago Matthew Bryza, deputy assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian affairs, who has handled the planning of the region’s energy network, told Kathimerini that the opening of the pipeline would «change Europe’s strategic map for the better» and would «send a strong message to international markets and all our friends in Europe that the ‘South Stream’ was a reality.»