Ladies and Gentlemen,
Let me begin by thanking Yannis Kostoulas for inviting me to participate in this important event.
Last year, I began my speech at the Mare Forum 2018, with the following words:
«We are living in turbulent times. This is not the time for business as usual.
Europe is being destabilized politically, and the extremists are gaining the upper hand.
Energy is at the heart of global development; and the energy future belongs to a model which is decentralized, decarbonized, digitalized, democratic and fair - with inclusive growth and job creation».
Greek shipping is a dominant force of the global energy supply chain, with Greek owners retaining their indispensable role as the sector’s leading asset players.
The traditional contribution of shipping to the Greek economy is of course well-known, and includes notable indirect investments and job creation -
A newer force, for the Greek economy and development is the potential of building energy infrastructure.
Indeed, this sector may attract investments, of at least €50 billion, and create more than 100.000 new jobs in the coming years.
My comments at last year’s meeting are more relevant and urgent than ever. There is no room for complacency.
Greece fully supports the EU’s strategy for a more competitive, secure and sustainable energy system.
It is committed to contribute to Europe’s long-term 2050 greenhouse gas reductions target.
Greece continues to support five (5) important projects.
1. The Trans Adriatic Pipeline – TAP - bringing gas from the Caspian Sea through Greece, to Italy and beyond.
2. The Interconnector Greece-Bulgaria (The IGB) and the Alexandroupolis FSRU (Floating Storage and Regasification Unit).
3. The Vertical Corridor in the South Eastern Balkans, as a new South - North Pipeline in the area from Greece to Romania and beyond.
4. The East Mediterranean Pipeline – (EastMed), from Israel and Cyprus through Greece to Italy.
5. The Greek Hydrocarbon Fields Exploration and Production project, as part of the emerging East Mediterranean Energy Eldorado.
The realization of these projects is essential in terms of quantity and quality: that is, to supply Europe with its growing need of volumes of gas – and in terms of quantity – from diversified sources and routes to strengthen security of supply.
This brings responsibilities. In this context, we will need to pay more attention to the possibility of non-state threats to energy security, including cyber-attacks and terrorism.
We consistently promoted Smart Energy, Smart Cities and Smart Grids and of course Smart Energy Storage.
As for Climate Change, some progress, in some parts of the world is being made. But in some of the world’s largest countries – and largest pollutants, much more must be done.
Constitutions traditionally reflect the goals that must be met for the good of the national interest and the good of mankind.
So, according to this, and if we are honest with ourselves, this means that all countries should include a specific provision to tackle climate change in their constitutional charters.
At European level, since April 2018, a debate has taken place on a proposal from the French Government, to revise Article 34 of the French Constitution, and add a reference to addressing Climate Change.
Because of my personal long-standing commitment, I was proud to propose two amendments for the Greek Constitution.
These amendments are related to Climate Change and to Artificial Intelligence and the 4th Industrial Revolution.
Article 24 of the Greek Constitution refers to the protection of the environment, the forests, the monuments, as well as the country’s sustainable urban planning and spatial organization.
These formalities – although important – are now no longer adequate.
This, together with protecting Biodiversity, is frankly the greatest challenge ever faced by mankind.
A holistic, integrated approach to this incredibly multifactorial risk is required.
We must take a broad approach, an approach that penetrates horizontally all spheres of human activity, perceptions and social priorities.
Article 25 of the Greek Constitution, refers to the principles of the Social State of the Law and the Protection of Human Rights.
I proposed adding a specific amendment - a reference to the implications of Artificial Intelligence and the 4th Industrial Revolution, both for safeguarding and protecting Human Rights and for securing fair and social distribution of wealth produced.
The basic aim of this intervention is to ensure that, the surplus value and the surplus wealth, produced by the technological revolution, are not only acquired by the elite who is lucky to possess information and application algorithms.
Rather it should be fairly spread, as far as possible, to the whole of society.
Related to this, are other issues, for which we need a bigger debate.
This is, how to handle with transparency and fairly the enormous moral issues arising from the role of machines and their substitution of human decision-making.
And to honestly assess the newest phenomenon to fully come to light: the manipulation of public opinion and of Democratic institutions as a whole, through the propaganda of fake news and post-truth attributes.
Europe is the first major economy to take a serious step towards climate neutrality - strategy for economic and societal transformation – involving all sectors – that could lead to net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.
The strategy aims to 3 key-points:
1. put the necessary infrastructure in place, for instance smart electricity and data grids, smart charging, including vehicle-to-grid technology,
2. step up renovation of buildings and heat them with renewable energy, instead of polluting fossil fuels.
3. Support investment for industry can and is ready to decarbonise, too, for more electrification, use of hydrogen, biomass and renewable synthetic fuels.
However, this huge exercise must not be about creating prospects for some - while leaving others behind.
The strategy will only be a success, if it is socially fair.
This is why I am pleased that the Commission has built the concept of the ‘just transition’ into its strategy.
Cooperation and solidarity is also what the European Union brings to the Action Agenda on the global level.
The coming European elections suggest a historic opportunity to create a new, innovative Europe with justice; a Europe free from nationalism and populism.
The Europe of Renaissance and Reformation, the Europe that guarantees Social and Environmental progress, the Green and Digital Transition to a circular model of production and consumption.
Europe is at a cross-road. We know the hazards.
These include the uncontrolled Globalization, the Digital Revolution, Climate Change, the disruption of the Global Equilibrium, the profound questioning of basic democratic principles by autocratic, populist leaders.
Brexit symbolizes the crisis of Europe, which has failed to respond to the needs of its people for protection from the major shocks of the modern world.
It also symbolizes the European trap.
The trap, according to French President Manuel Macron, is in the lie and the irresponsibility that can destroy it. Who told the British people the truth about their post-Brexit future?
No country can act on its own in the face of aggressive strategies by major powers and in the face of demagogic populists. No one can claim to be sovereign, on their own, in the face of the digital giants and a globalized world.
Moreover, a world-oriented Europe needs to look towards Africa, with which we should enter into a covenant for the future, and ambitiously and non-defensively support African development with such measures as investment, academic partnerships and education for girls.
In this Europe, the peoples will really take back control of their future.