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Greece in Israel arrow Embassy Newsarrow Remarks of Ambassador Spyridon Lampridis at the opening panel of Conference “A Bridge under Troubled Waters? Offshore Energy Discoveries and the Geopolitics of the Eastern Mediterranean” organized by Truman Institute at Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

Remarks of Ambassador Spyridon Lampridis at the opening panel of Conference “A Bridge under Troubled Waters? Offshore Energy Discoveries and the Geopolitics of the Eastern Mediterranean” organized by Truman Institute at Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

Thursday, 28 November 2013

Remarks of Ambassador Spyridon Lampridis at the opening panel of Conference “A Bridge under Troubled Waters? Offshore Energy Discoveries and the Geopolitics of the Eastern Mediterranean” organized by Truman Institute at Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

New Energy sources and consequent political perspectives in the region of East Mediterranean

Thank you all, for this timely opportunity to exchange views on this important issue. I would first like to touch briefly on the broader international framework in which our subject is to be examined currently.

According to existing theories, International Relations are determined either by sheer balance of power (School of neo-Realists) or alternatively by a structured legal, institutional and moral international system binding for all States (opposing school of Idealists). Over the past few decades, especially after the collapse of the post World War II bipolar equilibrium, the world has been balancing precariously between an awkward “a la carte” application of these two theories. Certainly, so far, events are largely favoring the Realists since we live in a predominantly “Hobbesian” world, regulated or rather ‘de-regulated’ often by demonstrations of power and open application of force, coming from various sources.

Nevertheless, at the same time a great deal has being changing in all kinds of transnational contacts, the players involved, the means employed, the sense of transparency in international affairs but also the actual speed by which such interactions are conducted. The world is rapidly becoming a “global village” from various points of view. This, inescapably, also mutates significantly most of the traditional ways of conducting diplomacy and other forms of international cooperation.

In this context, new parameters like, indeed, traditional or alternative energy sources, a globally interdependent economy based on an all encompassing and far reaching international trade, drastic climate changes, but also a whole array of impressive innovative capabilities in communications and human contacts, are dramatically changing the map of geo-strategic interests, balances of power, global opportunities or even threats. All kinds of enormous challenges, positive or negative, seem to be emerging and often they are entirely new to us all.

Not by coincidence at such unique times, Europe as a whole and especially its southern States find themselves at crucial crossroads. Italy, Spain, Greece, Portugal and Cyprus, we all face considerable financial and, consequently, political shocks that seriously affect our social cohesion, but might also lead to new opportunities.

It is by now widely accepted in our continent that a new sustainable development model is urgently required for Europe. In this sense, natural resources and especially hydrocarbons could well in this case play a vital role for the creation of new, energy based substantial public revenues that will ensure the health of our national economies in crisis, but will also safeguard us from similar challenges in the future.

Speaking from my country’s perspective of course, I can confirm that our view is that energy can indeed play a leading role in helping Greece breaking out from a vicious circle of dead-end austerity that has been shrinking our economic prosperity for six consecutive years, literally strangling all real economic activity. The quick and structured development of this dynamic sector will consolidate Greece’s image as a stable country that, while remaining essential for Europe’s overall cohesion, can also represent an island of tranquility in what is beginning to look like an ocean of increasing volatility in the sensitive East Mediterranean corner and beyond.

It is also a well known fact that, currently, a number of European counties need to safeguard their national energy security by diversifying import sources, securing alternative provision routes and increasing energy efficiency. This naturally constitutes a top priority for my country as well. 

An important step was thus taken in this direction by the establishment of the Hellenic Hydrocarbons Management Company which, on behalf of the Greek state, shall exercise its hydrocarbon rights and will undertake responsibility for organizing and executing relevant exploration and production tenders, evaluating offers, selection of the winners, preparation of relevant contract agreements and constant supervision of their appropriate execution. Most of these procedures have already been initialized, while the first results of test drilling in maritime areas of Western and Southern Greece, have yielded more than promising results concerning the existence of substantial and extricable natural gas and oil resources beneath the sea bed.

The Greek Government is naturally committed like every other state to explore its hydrocarbon potential in areas where the Hellenic Republic exercises sovereign rights in accordance with the provisions of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. What is more important though is that the State’s recognition of its obligation to reattribute the value of hydrocarbons wealth to the Greek society and to support at the greatest possible way the next generations, has been demonstrated by the foundation of the National Account of social solidarity for the new generation. This is a long term plan, too serious to be taken lightly by anyone.

Let me add on a more technical level, that, as I just mentioned, the Open Door tender for three blocks of research in Western Greece is already a reality (Ioannina, Katakolo, Patras), but in addition to these specific areas Greece has engaged in an extended multi-client seismic survey program of 12.500 km of seismic lines, covering an area of 220.000 square km in offshore western Greece and to the south of Crete. The operation was performed by the Norwegian Company PGS. Data acquisition was completed in February 2013 and data processing is ongoing at Houston Texas as we speak. It is expected to be completed by January 2014.

Let me reiterate that the preliminary analysis of this acquired data, indicates the existence of promising target areas in the Ionian Sea and the Sea to the South of Crete. The interest already expressed by large oil companies for the purchase of such data, strengthens our confidence that our endeavor will be successful and that the upcoming official licensing round will be a milestone to the opening of an upstream relevant market in Greece and the region.

But let us turn once more to the broader picture. A number of significant developments in terms of energy policy and infrastructure are currently taking place in the South Eastern Mediterranean. The ongoing investment on infrastructure as a matter of fact is of such proportions, that, when completed towards the end of this decade will reshape the energy landscape of the region and will by then have, undoubtedly, altered the overall balance of energy output, routing and subsequent economic development of the broader area. Such developments could then significantly influence the entire market operation, energy production and transfer capabilities in Europe, the Mediterranean, the Middle East and Central Asia.

In this ongoing process, the large scale exploration of Israel’s and Cyprus’ gas deposits in the perspective of the broader regional hydrocarbon development, will necessitate new secure and long term trustworthy gas corridors, most probably Europe based, like the designed East Med pipeline  as well as LNG processing plants and relevant sea transport. Greece, through its recently finalized participation in the Trans Adriatic Pipeline consortium (TAP), has already emerged as the key gateway for Azeri gas exports to Europe via Turkey, and the main  link of the EU’s Southern Gas Corridor, that will provide the Union with up to 20 billion cubic meters per year through the Italian corridor.

Other regional pipelines like the Italy-Greece-Bulgaria pipeline also present a wider regional importance and are therefore ranked as top priorities among EU Projects of Common Interest. This IGB line in fact is creating in turn synergies with smaller interconnectors in the region, allowing access to several evolving South Eastern European local energy markets.

In conjunction with this specific pipeline, existing facilities of storage and re-liquidification unit terminals in Northern Greece provide similar opportunities to reach the growing energy markets of neighboring countries but also offer other possibilities for diversification of natural gas sources and further access of LNG in the area and to the broader area of central Europe beyond.

More specifically, the Underground Gas Storage Facility in the Kavala area already under substantial extention, together with Revithousa island LNG storage plant which is ideally positioned to support major gas pipelines and interconnectors (TAP, IGB), could also act as an entry point for new offshore gas projects in the East Mediterranean region, while fulfilling the obligation to our EU partner States to cover their maximum daily consumption in the event of disruption of other large gas import infrastructures.

Whether by LNG or by pipeline, the linking of East Mediterranean resources with the European markets, seems to be constituting by now a concrete new European Strategy, matching in significance the Southern Gas Corridor EU Policy. Greece, along with its partner Italy, are systematically promoting this entire concept of the new East-Med Corridor Strategy, in view of the successive Greek and Italian EU Presidencies of 2014.

Let me underline at this point that the East Med pipeline planned to link eventually Cyprus to Crete and then to mainland Greece, has distinct advantages for Europe and the Middle East, given also Israel’s advanced stage of sea bed natural gas exploitation policies. This pipeline option would greatly help to strengthen political and economic cooperation in the entire region by enabling several countries to determine further and their own foreign policy and security orientation by strengthening their will to cooperate and act together with their neighbors towards a clearly win-win situation of mutual development and peaceful co-existence.

As a result of such attitudes, the pipeline may well become a significant regional factor of stability, provided that all those involved behave in a clever, responsible way with respect to their neighbors as well as to the provisions of International Law. This can, and must, develop into an once in a lifetime, so to speak, opportunity for all peoples in the area for a brighter future and not to another undesirable source of friction.

In the field of electricity also, the latest discoveries of substantial hydrocarbon deposits in the Eastern Mediterranean, might well have a substantial positive effect on European and Middle East energy security, as well as on the commissioning of new international electricity interconnections based on new electric power generating plants running on natural gas. We, from our side, are in fact delighted that the European Commission’s competent Decision Making Body decided a few months ago to include an underwater electrical cable, (the Euro-Asia Interconnector that could reach Israel in a short time and which represents a project of roughly 3.5 billion Euros budget), in the final Projects of Common Interest (PCI) list. In this connection, further development of the Greek Transmission Grid and the proposed new cross-border interconnections with Bulgaria and Italy, are also of paramount importance in terms of promoting the further unification of the South Eastern European electricity market.

Through careful policy planning, wise and prudent governance, but above all, through honest and open cooperation to serve our convergent interests and needs, all countries in the region can develop their natural resources successfully, in a mutually beneficial way. It is evident from all relevant data so far available, that the coming years will most probably unveil new huge natural gas possibilities in the Eastern Mediterranean.

Getting the greatest possible number of countries that share an interest in the region’s hydrocarbons on the same page and earmarking their exports for an energy-thirsty Europe, will undoubtedly boost their geopolitical and economic prospective, thus turning a potentially high-risk area to a hub of cooperation and peaceful, creative coexistence. This highly desired scenario, can yield spectacular results and substantial development and prosperity to our peoples, increasing at the same time significantly the level of trust and will for close cooperation, even among countries that maintained open animosity for each other in past years.

Given the dazzling evolution in today’s global affairs, such hostile attitudes begin to seem outdated and look rather out of context. I am hopeful that the next realistic and certainly more able than us generation, will soon turn such negative predispositions and consequent feuds into useless relics of the past.

As a matter of fact, in the beginning of my intervention I purposely referred to the two main existing schools of thought in international relations. Let me now confide with you, that it is my firm belief that developing vast possibilities in the energy sector throughout our region, finally presents a golden opportunity to all actors of our troubled area to consider seriously following steadily and in a consistent way, the principles and rules of the Idealist school of thought in a revolutionary Kantian approach of human, and consequently, State relations. It is high time that societies, well into the 21st century by now, learn from mistakes committed by mankind in previous, horrific for all humanity, dark years and consequently alter course towards a more converging, cooperative global and regional international order. At long last, we could all act in a positive spirit, within a framework of a well regulated international order, based on the respect of International Institutions, Rule of Law, existing relevant international Treaties and above all, each other.

Thank you again.

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