EU & WBs / Albania Energy Market Updates

EU & WBs / Albania Energy Market Updates

Presentation of Albanian Centre for Energy Regulation and Conservation - ACERC

ACERC is a think tank centre with focus in Albania energy market and its integration on 8th Regional Area & EU IEM. The ACERC mission aim to provide a qualified contribution to the promotion of the liberalization and the effective integration as well as the efficient use of energy resources.

ACERC main activities profiles briefly consists in the release reports, articles and periodicals. In cooperation also with collaborates the offering of the activities that support capacity building of market actors, such as national and regional seminars, trainings and conferences. Initiatives completed by advocating in the energy sector promoting a forum called in Albanian School of Regulation.

For more visit us at the Official Website of Acerc | Albanian Energy Market - AEM Group in LinkedIn

Looking to the Future, Building on Success, 02 February 2015

AEM Updates January 2015Posted by Adv. Lorenc Gordani, PhD Tue, February 03, 2015 10:18:20
Looking to the Future, Building on Success02 February 2015

On 1st February, 2015, TAP welcomed Ian Bradshaw as our new Managing Director.

“I am delighted that we have hired Ian to lead the TAP project into its next and important phase as we prepare for pipeline construction, beginning in 2016,” said Andy Lane, Chairman of TAP’s Board of Directors. “Ian has a wealth of oil and gas project experience that will be a great asset in taking the project forward to completion.”

As Ian settled into his new role, we asked for his thoughts on TAP, the challenges ahead, and his priorities as project leader.

What recommends you for this role?

With more than 30 years of experience in the oil and gas industry, I have played a variety of key roles in the delivery of a wide-range of commercial arrangements and technical projects in different geographies and cultures. My previous roles have included responsibilities comparable in magnitude, complexity and speed of development and I would hope these assignments have prepared me well for this new position leading the TAP project as it enters the “build” phase.

What drew you to TAP?

TAP is a project of significant social importance not only for the people of Europe, for whom it will deliver material diversity of gas supply, but also for the producer nation, Azerbaijan, and the TAP, TANAP and SCP transit countries: Italy, Albania, Greece, Turkey and Georgia. TAP is therefore a vital link in a complex and strategic value chain which will make a crucial contribution to securing and diversifying Europe’s energy future. It will bring new sources of gas to Europe, boost competition in several markets, and open a new route that will also benefit countries in South Eastern Europe.

TAP is also a multifaceted and multi-cultural challenge and such complex and intricate mandates have always appealed to me.

What are your objectives in the new role?

My first and foremost objective is to build on all the excellent work that Kjetil has led to date and maintain momentum so that we can safely deliver a pipeline in compliance with the legal and regulatory frameworks of the relevant host countries, of operational integrity compatible with all relevant international technical standards, within a budget agreed with our shareholders, and which will be ready to safely receive and transport first gas from Shah Deniz II in 2020. As the project gears up in this construction phase, I consider it imperative that we work closely with and enhance our already good relationships and alliances with local and regional stakeholders as well as streamline operations on the ground together with our EPC contractors and sub-contractors, ensuring a safe, efficient and effective start-up.

Tell us more about your short-term priorities.

Following a very comprehensive and solid handover with Kjetil, whom I would like to personally thank, I will first be meeting with all departments, learning about their successes as well as their current challenges, and getting to know the TAP team.

I also plan to meet our teams in all our key locations, and will visit each of our country headquarters within my first 60 days in the role. For me now, the priority is to focus on successfully using every minute of this year to ensure that we prepare the ground for a safe start of construction of the main pipeline project in 2016. This will mean having all the critical elements in place in terms of permits and approvals, technical assurance of all our plans, long-lead items procured, and our major construction contracts in place.

In addition, we will need to finish some critical ancillary and preparatory contracts such as the completion of the Albanian roads and bridges that we need to build or reinforce this year. Thereafter, we will need to gear-up to bring on board many vital contractors and sub-contractors that will work with us on the TAP project, ensuring that they are trained and are able to meet TAP’s standards on health, safety and compliance across the entire project.

What do you think will be your biggest challenge?

To ensure that I and the whole of the TAP leadership team constantly assure ourselves that, across the entirety of the project, we have active processes in place to identify all possible risks and opportunities.

For each significant risk we need to speedily ensure that we have adequate and acceptable mitigation measures in place, first of all to maintain our legal and regulatory responsibilities to society in general but in addition to make sure that our staff, contractors, and sub-contractors remain safe and healthy throughout all our project phases.

We also need to ensure that we examine each and every opportunity, and any lessons learned along the way, to avoid any complacency in our work practices and to seek out and implement any technical and commercial improvements to our activities.

Do you have a recipe for success?

I am not sure if it is a recipe, and if you have ever sampled my cooking you might appreciate why I am slightly uncomfortable with that metaphor, but I think as a leader there are five huge responsibilities I have towards our team.

First of all, the vision has to be clear, not just the high-level vision, but the clarity of purpose aims and objectives of each department and sub-team.

Secondly, I have a tremendous obligation to the team to ensure that vision is communicated to everyone clearly and repeatedly to ensure that we all stay together and on track.

Thirdly, as leaders we have to responsibly build all the necessary coalitions and alliances in our host countries and with our contractors and sub-contractors, as well as all other partners internationally that are needed to safely deliver our project.

Next, I need to make sure that we all stay motivated to focus on safe delivery and hopefully inspire people to strive for constant quality improvements.

Finally, if I can also help to identify and develop more leaders along the way, then I will be happy to have fulfilled my leadership responsibilities. So, if you want to call it a recipe I guess the ingredients are: Vision, Communication, Alliances & Coalitions, Inspire & Motivate, while Building More Leaders.

In addition to these leadership challenges, there are also a few critical areas of general management that as a team we have to get right and, wherever feasible, streamline. Not least of these is the need to constantly assess how we are doing against our plans and forecasts, including focussing on the right priorities while factoring in our limitations. Experience has taught me the value of effectively managing, tracking, measuring and constantly challenging our progress and I will hold myself and our leadership team faithful to this credo.

Do you have a message for TAP’s stakeholders?

TAP will continue to hold dear its commitments to the environment and the local community, as well as health and safety. We remain committed to acting transparently, responsibly and efficiently in building a safe pipeline that will serve markets for decades to come.

In your new role, what excites you the most?

First of all, getting to work with a talented team that has already proven its commitment in the planning, permitting and development phases of TAP. Also, getting to know our key stakeholders across all of our operations in Greece, Italy and Albania; to understand their energy in support of TAP and any concerns they may have about the way in which we will have to fulfil our responsibilities in the exciting “build” phase.



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NEW GREEK GOVERNMENT CHANGES COURSE ON NATURAL GAS SECTOR, February 02nd, 2015

AEM Updates January 2015Posted by Adv. Lorenc Gordani, PhD Tue, February 03, 2015 01:03:35
NEW GREEK GOVERNMENT CHANGES COURSE ON NATURAL GAS SECTOR
February 02nd, 2015ù

The new government in Greece, a coalition of the Leftist party SYRIZA and its junior right wing partnerANEL, appears to be changing course on energy policy with considerable impact on the natural gas sector.

Newly appointed Minister of Energy Panagiotis Lafazanis commented that: "The privatization process of the DEPA natural gas supply company will not move on." It has to be noted that in 2013 there was already failed attempt to privatize 65% of its shares, but it was also effectively stopped by the previous conservative Greek government."

Officials from the Greek energy ministry declined to comment if the DEPA decision will impact the ongoing privatization of DESFA, the Greek gas transmission operator, which is currently being in the process of being bought by the State Oil Company of Azerbaijan Republic (SOCAR).

Lafazanis commented that the Syriza administration is awaiting the decision of the EU competition authorities in respect to as to whether the proposed acquisition is in line with the EU merger regulation, a process which seem to be dragging for a considerable period. The EC has twice extended the deadline, most recently to April 22nd from earlier announced date of March 23rd.

The EC has concerns that SOCAR’s involvement in the production of natural gas as well as of its wholesale in Greece after acquisition major share in the gas distribution system may reduce competition. DESFA owns and operates Greek's sole high-pressure gas transmission and Greece's only LNG terminal and mainly transports gas through its network

The new Energy minister's comments appear to indicate that Athens has decided that DEPA will remain as a state enterprise and has dropped privatization of DESFA entirely into the EU's hands, in start contrast to the stance of the previous government which had guaranteed to Baku its full support for a satisfactory conclusion to the privatization process.

The Syriza government appears to also be supporting the Turk Stream gas route to replace the cancelled South Stream project. Thanasis Petrakos, a leading figure of Syriza, has whole-heartedly embraced the project and indications from the country's energy ministry point out that Greece will strive at least to gain a spur of this pipeline into its territory in order to resurrect the Interconnector Greece-Italy (ITGI) which may well run in parallel with the Trans-Adriatic Pipeline.

TAP project may also be facing head winds. Local media reports indicate the Syriza government will request in the short term, an amendment of the clauses that have been signed by the previous administration. Most importantly, those include the payment of transit fees by TAP consortium. Should these fees be denied, Syriza will then examine the option of taking the subject to the European Court of Justice, since according to the standing EU and Greek law, transit fees are to be requested by the national member states. In such case, several former governmental figures, maybe found liable of damaging the economic interests of the state that is a punishable penal offence, as a Syriza official emphatically commented for Natural Gas Europe.

Syriza also appears to be pursuing closer relations with Russia. Lafazanis conveyed he personal opposition to the embargo on Russia. It should be noted that already Greece is heavily dependent on Russian energy supplies, receiving 65% of its oil imports and 75% of its gas from Russian companies, most notably Gazprom and Lukoil. The reason for that is that the country has lost its traditional suppliers such as Libya and Iran on oil business, and the gas streaming from Russian pipelines is under long-term contracts and relatively, depending on seasonal adjustments, cheaper that LNG supplies.

Greek energy officials are concerned that a hardening of the relations between EU and Russia may result in serious energy security constraints for the country. Further Syriza's party officials have relayed unofficially, that they aim to get benefits from the Russian side, such as extensive credit periods for the import of Russian oil for up to 9 months, a minimum 10% reduction of the gas import prices, together with a foregone of 100 million Euros already owned by DEPA to Gazprom. The aforementioned are also related to the exposure of the Greek export market into Russia in two niche market products that of agricultural products and furs, which total around 0.4% of Greece's GDP, whilst annual tourism revenues from the Russian market reach 0.7% of GDP over the past few seasons.

Another topic of importance in the natural gas sector is that of the LNG infrastructure. There appears to be no change in the Greek position, with the upgrade of the Revythousa LNG terminal proceeding as well as the intention of establishing a new terminal in Northern Greece that will aim to diversify both Greek and Bulgaria supplies and away from Russian and Azeri imports.

The Syriza government is also fervently in favour of the use of natural gas as an alternative model for transport, including the widespread of natural gas as preferred fuel for all public vehicles and will push forward the EU's plans to make it a standard mode for all commercial and passengers sea vessels in the coming years.

One critical matter on which Syriza has yet to official state its position is on the movement of gas discovered in the Eastern Mediterranean and on the conflict on between Cyprus and Turkey on the ownership on gas resources.

In a nutshell, concerning the gas sector in Greece, several changes of tactical level should be expected, such as postponement of the privatization of the gas trading business (DEPA) and changes in the trading agreements of the TAP route. On a strategic level, although too soon to tell, the Greek administration appears ready to examine the prospects of engaging to the Turk Stream, while on a regulatory level, the strong presence of the state is expected to continue.



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DG Energy Editorial Newsletter January 2015

AEM Updates January 2015Posted by Adv. Lorenc Gordani, PhD Sat, January 31, 2015 13:55:17

Energy in Europe

Editorial

The New Year has started at a pace with the future of Europe's energy sector on top of the agenda. At the same time, we are confronted with profound evolutions of the energy and geopolitical landscape: oil prices have dropped by 60% since June last year; Iran negotiations, if successful, might lead to a progressive reopening of Iranian oil and gas markets towards Europe; and the Russia/Ukraine gas story will continue to keep us busy for the months to come. A strong EU reply to these changes is more needed than ever.

Last year's announcement of a new Energy Union – one of President Juncker's political priorities – comes as a timely rally to unite European decision-makers behind this ambitious project. On 6 February, the Latvian Presidency of the EU and the European Union are organising a joint event to kick-off discussions on Energy Union with Vice-President Šefčovič and Commissioner Arias Cañete.

Commissioner Arias Cañete has also been taking part in the World Future Energy Summit in Abu Dhabi highlighting European leadership in energy transformation. And, an agreement was reached on a common strategy for the development of electricity interconnections between the Transmission System Operators of France, Spain and Portugal. We are furthermore pleased to announce a new consultation – open until mid-March - that seeks your views on the security of European gas supplies.

The beginning of this year also saw new energy efficiency rules go live. The measures affect coffee-making, networked devices like printers, cooking appliances and internet surfing – find out how with our new infographic highlighting the changes.

Lastly, I'd like to introduce our new website. Our aim is to ensure that you, our readers, can easily navigate your way around European energy policy accessing clearly-written information via a well-designed and mobile-friendly website.

Dominique Ristori





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HOW GAZPROM SEES IT, JANUARY 30TH, 2015

AEM Updates January 2015Posted by Adv. Lorenc Gordani, PhD Fri, January 30, 2015 11:30:19
HOW GAZPROM SEES IT, January 30th, 2015

In his address to delegates at the European Gas Conference this week in Vienna, Austria, Gazprom's Chairman of the Board of Directors, Viktor Zubkov, began by speaking of the future of natural gas in view of the economic crisis in Europe, but went on to air the company's grievances with Europe and the latter's policies that have put a crimp in Gazprom's plans and criticized the economic sanctions against Russia.


Noting that the situation for the company had become worse last year with the drop in oil prices, gas prices had also changed, he said. Mr. Zubkov spoke of how this has affected investment cycles for things like pipelines, which might not generate revenues for 20-25 years, so investments weren't happening. He offered, “And this could lead to lack of supplies for consumers, who may have to pay high prices [for gas].”

Gas export revenues, he said, are important for producer countries, who oftentimes subsidize energy prices. According to him, this was also a budget risk for importers of natural gas. “It's in the interest of both sides of the gas market to find the so-called 'golden middle' – neither too high, nor too low – a stable price.”

He also said that a reliable and long-lasting energy supply is important.

In his speech in Vienna, Mr. Zubkov also criticized EU rules, saying: “Bad rules can only lead to a worse situation, and that's what we see now on the European gas market with the 3rd Energy Package.”

He also referred to Europe's “demonization of exporters, especially those from Russia,” but insisted that Russia is the most reliable gas partner for Europe. “We've been working for Europe for the past 47 years and Europeans need to understand there are long-term goals for the producers as well as for consumers.”

Meanwhile, the demand for gas in Europe, he explained, has decreased for the 4th year running, a decrease of 50 BCM from 2011-2014.

Mr. Zubkov queried, “When import is going down, how can we invest? Where will the funds come from when consumption is at 68%?”

The EU's approach regarding South Stream, he said, had been unreasonable. While he said Gazprom has the ability to build infrastructure and increase the energy security of Europe, then it also has the right to use that infrastructure. Referring to the cancellation of the pipeline project, he recalled, “Because it was an unreasonable risk for Gazprom, the structure of the project changed.”

By re routing its gas through Turkey via the so-called “Turk Stream,” gas deliveries to the EU would depend on other European partners, he said.

Gazprom, he said, will remain a reliable partner, but Europe needs to change its approach, cooperate and listen. If it is willing to hold negotiations, Russia will be a reliable supplier for many years to come.

In reference to the economic sanctions placed on Russia, Mr. Zubkov said they are negative for both Europe and Russia, but that the latter was now manufacturing things that its European partners had been supplying previously, things like 4,000 gas compressor stations.

He quipped, “So, who won here? We actually produced them ourselves, and it's similar for other products.”

In closing, Mr. Zubkov called for a dialogue between Russia and Europe.

Taking the stage just after, Gazprom's Deputy Chairman of the Management Committee, Alexander Medvedev, expressed his disappointment that no representative of the European Commission was in attendance at the conference in Vienna to engage in such dialogue.

-Drew Leifheit



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TAP - Work in Albania are running smoothly: the program East West - RAI-3 (in Italian language)

AEM Updates January 2015Posted by Adv. Lorenc Gordani, PhD Fri, January 30, 2015 11:17:21
TAP - Work in Albania are running smoothly: the program East West - RAI-3 (in Italian language)
TAP - I lavori in Albania procedono senza intoppi (dal programma Est Ovest - Rai3)

Pubblicato il 29 gen 2015

In Albania, sull'altra sponda dell'Adriatico, il progetto di TAP procede senza intoppi.

For more the video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bmMvL-sCyLI

Nessuna protesta dalle comunità locali da parte dei cittadini che sono stati coinvolti nelle decisioni. Nessun timore dal punto di vista turistico: la spiaggia sarà totalmente fruibile. Il governo albanese lo considera un progetto strategico per la diversificazione delle fonti di approvvigionamento. L'Albania avrà ricadute economiche per circa un miliardo di euro.

(Servizio della rubrica di approfondimento del TGR EstOvest, Rai 3, del 25 gennaio 2015)



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Russian Gazprom defines route of Turkish stream 27 JANUARY 2015

AEM Updates January 2015Posted by Adv. Lorenc Gordani, PhD Thu, January 29, 2015 11:52:24
Russian Gazprom defines route of Turkish stream

27 JANUARY 2015, 17:56 (GMT+04:00

Baku, Azerbaijan, Jan. 27

By – Trend:

Gazprom has defined the route of the Turkish stream pipeline along the bottom of the Black Sea, the company said on the results of the meeting in Ankara between the head of Gazprom Alexey Miller and Minister of Energy and Natural Resources of Turkey Taner Yildiz, the Interfax agency reported.

Plans are for the first line, with capacity of 15.75 billion cubic meters of gas, to arrive in Turkey in December 2016.

“The preliminary results of a feasibility calculation for the new pipeline were reviewed at the meeting and the decision on its route was made,” the press release stated. “The capacity of four lines of the pipeline will be 63 billion cubic meters of gas annually. The gas pipeline will pass 660 kilometers in the old corridor of South Stream and 250 kilometers in the new corridor in the direction of the European part of Turkey.”

On January 28, Gazprom will send a note with a request for implementation of design and survey work on the new Turkish maritime sector. Gazprom will implement the marine part of the project on its own.

Transport capacities in Turkey will be created together. The shares of participation will be determined through further negotiation.

Translated by EA

Edited by CN



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COLLEGE OF COMMISSIONER TO ADOPT ENERGY UNION STRATEGY IN 1 MONTH, SAYS ŠEFČOVIČ, January 27th, 2015

AEM Updates January 2015Posted by Adv. Lorenc Gordani, PhD Thu, January 29, 2015 11:44:19
COLLEGE OF COMMISSIONER TO ADOPT ENERGY UNION STRATEGY IN 1 MONTH, SAYS ŠEFČOVIČ, January 27th, 2015

European energy policies are unsustainable in every sense of the term, European Commissioner for Energy Union Maroš Šefčovič said on Monday, adding that ten percent of European households are energy-poor.

In his speech at the Extraordinary ITRE Committee Meeting, Šefčovič said that the European Commission is working to ensure security of supply despite geopolitical instabilities. He confirmed that the College of Commissioner should adopt the Energy Union Strategy in about a month, adding that Europe will soon come up with a strong energy diplomacy too. A strong single voice would allow Europe to get the message through, the Slovak Commissioner suggested.

“The current geopolitical situation on our eastern border, however unfortunate in itself, has put Europe's energy security even higher on the agenda” the Commissioner commented.

The solution presented by Šefčovič on Monday hinges on five pillars: i. supply security, ii. single internal energy market, iii. energy efficiency, iv. decarbonisation, v. investments in research and innovation for renewable energies.

According to the European Vice-President, only concerted efforts will bring to these results. In this context, Foreign Affairs will play a key role in enhancing Europe’s supply security.

“Let’s inject more transparency in the opaque gas contracts and, together with HR Mogherini, let us design an assertive and coherent energy diplomacy at the EU level.”

Šefčovič did not explicitly mention Russia, but the reference was quite easy to read.

SINGLE INTERNAL ENERGY MARKET AND ENERGY EFFICIENCY

According to Šefčovič, regional cooperation agreements will bring down technical and regulatory barriers among Member States, which will then translate into European integration.

“Our energy system is fragmented into 28 national silos and some parts of our continent are still insufficiently integrated in the energy system” Šefčovič said.

Additionally, energy efficiency will allow Europe achieving its goals. The European Commission is expected to present fresh actions to support investments, and the Slovak Commissioner did not forget this point.

“I was struck by two meetings I recently had: in the first meeting I was told that 90% of our housing stock is energy inefficient. In the second meeting, some private investors told me they are eager to invest in energy efficiency in the building sector. Let’s take action to connect the dots.”

DECARBONISATION AND RENEWABLES

At the end of his speech, Šefčovič reiterated the importance of a Market Stability Reserve, asking all the negotiators to be ambitious. He also said that Europe should decarbonise the transport sector.

“The Energy Union should be the world number one in renewables. This means – inter alia – accelerating our efforts to decarbonise the transport sector, a sector with a growing share of GHG emissions.”

Sergio Matalucci

Sergio Matalucci is an Associate Partner at Natural Gas Europe. Follow him on Twitter: @SergioMatalucci



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CAUCASUS GEOPOLITICS SHAKE UP THE ENERGY GAME, JANUARY 26TH, 2015

AEM Updates January 2015Posted by Adv. Lorenc Gordani, PhD Wed, January 28, 2015 16:15:57
CAUCASUS GEOPOLITICS SHAKE UP THE ENERGY GAME, January 26th, 2015

Over the past few months and in the midst of the Ukraine crisis, a shift of great geopolitical and energy importance is taking place in the Caucasus region. In particular, an alignment between Moscow and Baku, should it be fruitful, might shake up the entire gas route plans of the West with plans for a Russo-Turkish, alignment - Turk/Turkish Stream.

Azerbaijan's President Ilham Aliyev is anticipating a 'colour revolution' in the country. His right hand man, Ramiz Mehdiyev, Head of the Presidential Administration, recently published a 60-page widely circulated manifest accusing the US that it is forming a "fifth column" in the country. Mehdiyev explains that the role of NGOs is to overthrow current political establishments and concludes that a strong Azeri Presidency is required. Moreover, he adds that Washington is the major culprit behind instability in international relations and called for an independent and balanced foreign policy for Baku. The manifest was written in Russian and was also widely read in Moscow as well.

Furthermore, in mid-December 2014, the premises of Radio Free Europe in Baku were raided by Azeri security forces who seized equipment and files. The station is subsidized by US state department and various quasi-official American agencies. Washington condemned the event and the arrests of several other independent and oppositional journalists in the country. Around 100 opposition figures were arrested in 2014, the vast majority of which are somehow related to American media or the government. Meanwhile, pro-Aliyev state-owned media frequently debates negatively the US role in international affairs.

Azerbaijan plays a key role in supplying oil and gas to the Republic of Georgia, who would otherwise be totally under Russian energy influence. More importantly, the Trans Anatolian Natural Gas Pipeline (TANAP) and its spur, the Trans Adriatic Pipeline (TAP) constitute the Southern Gas Corridor route, which the US is confident will play a significant role into the diversifying the Europe's gas supplies and decrease the Continent's dependence on Gazprom.

Nevertheless, feasibility is an issue due to the fact that the Corridor was meant to be the first stage of the introduction of Central Asian gas through the Caucasus into Turkey-EU via the Trans-Caspian pipeline. Due to effective opposition by Russia, China, Kazakhstan and Iran, this project will be extremely difficult to materialize.

Under these circumstances, Azerbaijan realizes that its energy importance for the West is not as great as presumed. On the other hand, the spread of Western know-how and influence leads to strong calls for multi-party democratic institutions that will erode Aliyev's family establishment, hence the anti-US rhetoric.

Concurrently, Baku is entrenched for decades in a cold war with Armenia, a staunch ally of Russia, whilst it relations with Iran can be summarized as lukewarm in the best of cases. Thus, it needs actual and pragmatic Russian guarantees for its own territorial integrity, taking into account that the geopolitical placement of the country gravitates to isolation from any meaningful assistance by the 'Naval powers' in geopolitical terms.

For the above reasons it agreed into procuring arms from Russia worth $1 billion, whilst security services of both countries have started boosting their cooperation. Economic relations are also improving and alignment between the two has been achieved, somewhat. The aforementioned developments happen during a time when careful, behind the scenes negotiations are happening between Russia and Georgia. The latter seeing its so-called 'Eurasian political elite' gaining considerable ground against the 'Western-leaning' one. In short, the geopolitical landscape in the Caucasus is seriously tilting in favor of Moscow and in parallel with the addition of the Turk Stream that will shift the natural gas hub of the EU to Turkey, supplied mostly with Gazprom's supplies.

Continuing to Greece, there has been a change of governmental guards, with the win of the SYRIZA leftist party in the early nationwide elections on 25 January. This plays an additional role since already this party has agreed to proceed with the introduction of a spur for the Turk Stream, based on the previous plans of the Interconnector-Greece-Italy (ITGI). Moreover, SYRIZA tends to favor in general a balanced approach based on cordial relations between Russia and the US - with a diminished German-EU role. There is a considerably softer stance concerning Turkey's role in geo-energy affairs of the region, which simply implies that projects such as the East Med Pipeline from Israel to Greece will be lowest on the priority scale.

Lastly, a leading SYRIZA advisor and senior governmental figure commented exclusively to Natural Gas Europe :

Our future government will follow a pragmatic stance in international affairs and the energy ones, based on the needs of the people and the national interests, which dictate that a multi-dimensional policy is needed without constraining or embargoing relations with any state that can provide Greece with benefits, energy security included.

It should be noted though that a spur of Turk Stream into Greece is far from certain since the most economical route would be the one through the Balkans and into Austria/Italy large gas hubs, where originally South Stream was about to end. Thus a 'pragmatic' stance by a future SYRIZA government may indeed mean that it will follow a strategy based on LNG owing to the country’s favourable maritime environment and industry to offer a diversified source to the Balkans and in that sense that will follow the energy role model which is actually being implemented with the current Greek governmental coalition and which for sure is backed by Washington in most respects.

In general, the Ukrainian crisis is degenerating to a partial loss of US geo-energy influence in the wider South eastern European region. This is coupled with strong anti-Western movements in Bulgaria and Serbia, although not reported in the international press, and omission of the great difficulties into resolving Iran's perennial nuclear problem. In fact, although Iran would be the key to diversifying gas supplies to the EU, it is late for such a grand geopolitical turn, since both the Sunni Kingdoms and Israel are adamant into recognizing an emergence of an Iranian axis stretching all the way from East Mediterranean (Lebanon) to Kandahar (Afghanistan) and from the Caucasus to the oil rich Eastern Saudi regions in the Gulf. That would make Teheran the ultimate hegemon of the most important region in the world and it is mathematically impossible that the other important players would accept this without a fight.

To conclude, the Caucasus area will play a significant role in the coming period into the shaping of EU gas supplies as Russian supplies may increase rather decrease. Furthermore it can be certain that Germany, the Continent's largest economic and political power, but one lacking energy resources, will get more energetically involved in the landscape as it works to secure its own supplies. This will include further involvement of other EU powers, most notably the UK and France, who already have a great stake in the Southern Corridor and Azeri fields through BP and Total. A diplomatic spotlight for 2015 will most certainly be on Baku with Istanbul being placed as a major intermediate stop.



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