Welcome to European Tribune. It's gone a bit quiet around here these days, but it's still going.
Well the oil pipeline project wasn't seen as too big of a deal (outside of the Hudson Institute etc). I mean even the US ambassador to Greece gave it the thumbs up - while Chevron is showing an active interest in participating. What does worry certain circles is the possibility of Russian involvement in the Turkey-Greece-Italy (TGI) gas pipeline. Note the words of the US ambassador:

For the Southern Corridor to realize its potential, the Governments of Azerbaijan, Georgia, Turkey, Greece and Italy will have to stand together to overcome these and the many other sorts of obstacles that all complex energy projects confront. I know. I was involved in the creation of the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan oil pipeline, which came on line last year and which is making such a major contribution to global energy security. BTC was a difficult project, unprecedented in many ways, just as TGI is today. Yet it is now a reality.

Now what happens if we lose patience? What happens if we do not coordinate? If we do not stay united to bring Caspian supplies into TGI? Well, some are saying that the alternative, filling TGI with Gazprom gas, isn't so bad. This certainly is an option. Yet we believe that, if TGI is filled with Russian gas, a huge opportunity for increased competition in the European gas market will be lost.

Let me be clear: We're not against Gazprom gas. Gazprom already supplies 80% of non-European imported gas into the European Union and the firm has proved itself over time to be a reliable and committed supplier to most countries. But competition is good, and new sources of supply are even better. That is why the United States is diversifying its energy supply mix by working more closely with Gazprom, which has until now not been a major supplier to the United States. But within the European context, where Gazprom is by far the single most important gas supplier, if the Russians fill the gas pipeline to Italy, then Europe loses a tremendous and almost unique opportunity.

In fact, last year, Condi Rice's visit to Athens was almost exclusively about pressuring Greece to reject Russian participation in the TGI pipeline... Anyway, Gazprom is indeed making advances in Greece, since as we all know money talks...

Note though that the B-A pipeline is bound to increase tanker traffic on the Aegean, which increases the likelihood of an ecological disaster, which makes a lot of people kinda queasy about the whole project, especially given the fact that ~15% of Greek GDP (and ~15% of employment) comes directly or indirectly from tourism... (and around the same percentage from shipping - so those dangerous tankers would be Greek-owned for the most part...)

On a final note, I'm not at all sure whether US involvement in the Greek civil war was about Soviet access to the Aegean (it was never realistically pursued by the Soviets and the US possibly knew as much) - but that's another discussion (and Albania has no coast on the Aegean!)...

The road of excess leads to the palace of wisdom - William Blake

by talos (mihalis at gmail dot com) on Fri Apr 13th, 2007 at 08:52:01 PM EST

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