OPINION

Greece on the pipeline map

The Shah Deniz II consortium has selected the Trans Adriatic Pipeline (TAP) to export Azeri gas output to Europe, instead of Nabucco West. The decision essentially puts Greece on the energy map of both Europe and the broader region.

This will have obvious geopolitical and economic implications at a time when Greece was in real need of a success story, particularly following the failure to privatize state gas company DEPA.

The TAP decision, combined with the successful privatization of natural gas grid operator DESFA, will enhance confidence in the country’s mid- and long-term political and financial prospects. Furthermore, it will yield a number of direct and indirect benefits in terms of jobs as Greek companies will probably get involved in the project.

At the same time, Athens is presented with a great opportunity to implement a broader energy policy on many different axes: the construction of Interconnector Greece-Bulgaria (IGB); the exploitation of DEPA at a later stage; the construction and maintenance of the submarine power cable between Greece, Cyprus and Israel; the backing of the ambitious Mediterranean Energy Corridor connecting these three countries; and the exploitation of the country’s key renewable energy sources.

A fundamental part of Greece’s national energy policy should be attracting big firms to explore and exploit the hydrocarbon deposits that hopefully lie in the Ionian Sea and south/southeast of Crete. Athens officials should adopt a low-profile policy and carry out diplomatic contacts with regional players with the aim of carving maritime zones through negotiations or by resorting to an international court.

With regards to the Russians, Greece should of course renegotiate the price of gas. To be sure, considering current energy needs in the Western Balkans and Southern Europe, the Moscow-backed South Stream pipeline does not make much economic sense. However, Greece has every reason to keep its options with Russia open. Greek Environment Minister Yiannis Maniatis, one of the few pleasant surprises of the recent cabinet reshuffle, has what it takes to promote a multifaceted energy policy in close cooperation with the Foreign Ministry, which should from now on play a key role in energy developments.

* Thanos Dokos is director-general at the Hellenic Foundation for European & Foreign Policy (ELIAMEP).