Thursday, 10 May 2018 11:30

We support two gas export projects in the EU, Nicolaos D. Kanellos

 Caspian Energy (CE): Your Excellency, you arrived in Azerbaijan in August of the last year. How do you assess the relations between Greece and Azerbaijan, what is the potential?

Nicolaos D. Kanellos , Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Hellenic Republic to the Republic of Azerbaijan: Greece and Azerbaijan enjoy an excellent level of bilateral relations, which is constantly improving. Greece officially established an embassy in 1992, which started its operation in early 1993. Ever since, great progress has been made. We also cooperate in international for a such as the Black Sea Economic Cooperation organization. We are now two strategic partners in the energy sector, with the key project being, of course, the “Southern Gas Corridor”. I intend to put the relations in a wider context, with strong pillars such as culture and education.

CE : Which economic sectors are of importance to Greece? Are you satisfied with the current level of cooperation in these sectors?

Nicolaos D. Kanellos:  Greece is traditionally strong in shipping and tourism. In the first sector, cooperation is de facto restricted, as Azerbaijan is essentially land-locked, with only to the Caspian (where Greek shipping companies are absent). In tourism, we definitely want to attract more Azerbaijani visitors to Greece. Still, their main destinations abroad are accessible either by road or by direct flights, as well as being visa-free countries, and this is an issue. But we shall continue are efforts and we are also encouraging Greeks to visit your country.

CE: Which problems of the world energy security are troubling Greece and EU in general? What does energy security mean to Greece?

Nicolaos D. Kanellos:  The energy policy not only of Greece, but also of the EU as a whole, is to differentiate the main natural gas suppliers and this is for us the very meaning of energy security. This strategy of ours is compatible with the energy policy of Azerbaijan, a major producer exporting westwards. Still, you must take into consideration that we are already importing gas from three main sources, namely Russia from 1996, Turkey from 2007 and Algeria from 2000 (LNG).

CE: Which gas pipelines are of the most immediate interest to Greece?

Nicolaos D. Kanellos:  The “Southern Gas Corridor” system, with both TAP and its branch towards Bulgaria (IGB), is of extreme importance for Greece, as Energy Minister Mr Stathakis has repeatedly stressed, including during his visit to Baku in 2017. Hopefully, by early 2020 both these pipelines will be fully operational. We are also in favor of the proposed “East Med” pipeline from Israel and Cyprus to South Italy, which will pass through Crete and mainland Greece.

 CE: What is the potential of the market?

Nicolaos D. Kanellos:  After many years of recession the Greek economy is recovering and this also affects gas consumption. In 2017, we reached again the pre-crisis consumption levels, i.e. the levels of 2009. Now that the full gasification of the country is also moving forward, the consumption is due to increase dramatically in the years to come. We are bound by the EU targets and the 2015 Paris agreement on climate change, so we intend to use much more natural gas and renewables.  

CE: Is it probable that EU countries will reject gas by 2030 as they are expanding renewable energy capacities?

Nicolaos D. Kanellos:  Not at all. Natural gas and renewables are complementary sources of energy, not mutually exclusive. It’s oil and carbon that have to be substituted for, both in the EU and globally.

CE: Which competitive conditions for producers is Greece, which develops a huge gas hub in the south of EU, ready to offer?  Which conditions is she ready to offer for producers?

Nicolaos D. Kanellos:  A “physical” gas hub presupposes the existence of a rather big internal market, which, of course, cannot be the case in a country of 11 million people (and with no significant heavy industry, which is gas-consuming). Nevertheless, we can develop Greece into a “trading” hub, such as Baumgartner in Austria, whenever all the main gas pipelines into consideration are finally built.    

CE: Is it planned to hold Azerbaijan-Greece business forum?

Nicolaos D. Kanellos:  Let me remind you that the last meeting of the Joint Commission of Economic Cooperation between Greece and Azerbaijan took place in Athens, in May 2016, and it was very successful. The Azerbaijani side is expected to formally propose a date for the next meeting (in Baku) in due time. Definitely, when this High-Level meeting takes place, a Business Forum will also take place.

Thank you for the interview

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