The US is urging Greece to drop the idea of hosting a controversial Russian pipeline project, arguing the Turkish Stream pipeline running across the Black Sea to Greece would end up harming Greek and European interests — but Greece is resisting.
Amos Hochstein, the State Department’s special energy envoy, said Athens should instead promote the Southern Gas Corridor project aimed at bringing Caspian gas to Europe via Turkey and the planned Trans-Adriatic pipeline (TAP), rather than deepening Greece’s dependency on Russian energy.
The US said it was concerned that Athens’ consideration of an extension of the Moscow-backed Turkish Stream pipeline will not increase energy diversification, may be of concern to EU competition authorities, and is not a long-term solution to Greece’s energy needs.
Instead, the EU-backed Southern Gas Corridor project would bring much-needed cash and jobs. According to the embassy statement, “TAP will result in €1.5 billion in foreign investment in Greece, generate 10,000 jobs during construction, and provide many millions of euros in revenue annually over 25 years.”
But after the recent meeting with the US official, Greek Energy Minister Panayiotis Lafazanis said his government would continue to back Turkish Stream, “because we think it will be useful for our country.”
Cash-strapped Greece, backed against the wall by its international creditors and on the look-out for revenue, has intensified relations with Russia in the past months, a move that has been watched by Brussels and Washington with growing concern.
Alexei Miller, chief of Russian energy giant Gazprom, recently announced that his company would start building Turkish Stream and that gas would flow to Turkey by December 2016.
Brussels has been skeptical of the pipeline’s commercial viability. Many experts share this view.
According to Laszlo Varro of the International Energy Agency, Gazprom is in no position to undertake large new investment projects in 2015.
While 2013 saw record profits for the company, in 2015 the “idea that Gazprom will be able to finance large new infrastructure investments in South Eastern Europe has zero credibility in our view,” he said at a Brussels conference.