Tuesday, July 23, 2024
 
 

Putin brings his energy game to Athens

Russia wants Greece to back IGI Poseidon pipeline

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ATHENS – Russian President Vladimir Putin is expected to visit Greece on May 28 to boost Moscow’s energy relations with Athens and secure the revival of the IGI Poseidon pipeline to transport Russian gas across Greece to Italy.

“IGI Poseidon was from the very beginning the only realistic prospect for transporting Russian gas from a southern corridor that would bypass Ukraine. The vertical alternative through FYROM and Serbia was doomed to fail,” Constantinos Filis, director of research at Institute of International Relations, told New Europe on May 5.

Energy is part of wider geopolitical calculations. The Kremlin leader views EU-member Greece as a politically important player in the Balkan region as Russian gas giant Gazprom tries to ease Brussels’ resistance to Moscow’s efforts to build a new pipeline to the EU, bypassing Ukraine.

“The Russian side seems now more eager to respect European regulations and especially the Third Energy Package and therefore Brussels may find it difficult to block this project,” Filis said.

The European Commission and the United States are backing projects like the Southern Gas Corridor, which includes the Trans Adriatic Pipeline (TAP) and the Trans Anatolian Pipeline (TANAP) that reduce Europe’s reliance on Gazprom. “What a Russian inspired project will definitely need is the political backing of certain member-states as well as companies with effective lobbying tactics,” Filis said.

As things stand now, Washington and a number of European countries are against the transport of Russian gas via Greece and IGI Poseidon. Filis said the realisation of the project hinges on the situation in Ukraine and Bulgaria. Sofia “killed” South Stream by refusing to participate as a transit country and, after the recent worsening of Russian-Turkish relations, will have to decide on whether it will cooperate with Moscow, despite the leadership’s pro-western orientation.

Regarding Ukraine, Filis noted that if the situation in the Brussels-Moscow-Kiev triangle improves, any possible viable solution that might follow would probably include an energy agreement as well, in the sense of not totally excluding Ukraine from the transportation of Russian gas into Europe.

However, he noted that if Nord Stream-2 is implemented there might not be any real need for developing another system to feed the European market. In that case, IGI Poseidon’s implementation would depend on its economic viability and financing.

Nevertheless, Putin and Gazprom – neither the Greek nor the Italian leadership – will have to persuade their western partners in order to overcome their reservations, Filis said.

In theory, IGI Poseidon and TAP are supplementary routes. In practice, they might become competitive as they both will have landfalls in Italy, they are similar in terms of quantities and finally it is yet unknown if Gazprom can be prevented from attempting to complement TAP with its quantities based on the provisions of the Third Energy Package, Filis said.

“Greece’s energy agenda is served when we secure our participation through and to realistic, viable and market-oriented projects, which do not contradict with our wider interests,” Filis said “However, if Greece aims at becoming an energy hub for Southeast Europe, it should not be exclusive; on the contrary it must be as pluralistic as possible in order to avoid creating dependencies.”

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Co-founder / Director of Energy & Climate Policy and Security at NE Global Media

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