Ladies and Gentlemen,
Let me begin by thanking the organizers for inviting me to participate in this important event.
We are living in challenges times.
The good news is that challenges bring opportunities for renewal and transformation.
Since 1990 Europe has increased its GDP by 50% and reduced its pollutants by 22%.
This constitutes an unprecedented achievement towards realizing a Sustainable, Circular and Fair development creating new jobs. The world’s development future belongs to a model which is decentralized, lower-carbon, democratic, smart, creating new jobs and inclusive.
Globally we will live in a more competitive, energy intensive world.
The global population will grow by over a quarter by 2050; that means two billion more people needing access to water, food, fuel and energy.
With just 10 % of the world’s population, Europe accounts for 12% of global consumption. But over the next decades - as our population decreases - we will account for only 8% of global consumption.
This translates to a Europe whose influence over global markets - is weak – and getting weaker.
Hydrocarbon production is falling; import dependence is a basic characteristic of the EU’s energy system.
There is only one way for Europe to overcome its declining influence: To move towards an “ever closer Union”.
Personally I believe, “We are only as strong as we are united and as weak as we are divided”.
As if these challenges are not enough, they are compounded by conflicts and tensions affecting many oil and gas producing areas of the world.
Last, this is also a turbulent time for global energy markets: oil costs less than half what it did three years ago, and prices for natural gas in Europe and Asia are at historic lows, undermining the development of new projects.
This is not the time for business as usual. We need to face realities, without illusions – no matter how hard the truth is.
The European model seems to have lost its appeal. Europe “a la carte” is starting to take shape. The management of the refugee crisis is a complex matter. None of us can say where this multi-level crisis will take us. Europe is being destabilized politically, and the extremes are gaining the upper hand.
There are concrete issues that are shaking today’s Europe:
1. the lack of leadership and vision,
2. the multiple and multifaceted crises that have broken out in Europe’s near abroad,
3. the economic crisis,
4. the problems of peripheral states,
5. low growth rates,
6. Europe’s aging population,
7. Brexit and the unknown priorities of Trump Administration in USA
At the same time, despite the attempt at institutional deepening, centrifugal forces are developing.
What we see, is a gradual return to nationalization of decisions. The “de facto” overriding of collective decisions creates a negative dynamic of entrenchment.
With European cohesion being tested in a state of affairs where member states are attempting the “nationalization” of many decisions, calling into question the notion of communality, we must at all costs avoid a lapse into “less” Europe.
We all know that the marine environment can be seriously affected in case of bad practices or accidents.
The problems are stronger in seas like the Mediterranean where 30% of the total volume of world trade is carried out via its more than 450 ports as well as one fourth of the oil transport through tankers.
Thus, maritime activities must be carried out in a sustainable manner.
On the other hand, shipping, together with train, is the most ecologically friendly way of transport since its emissions’ per ton and kilometer are very low. Of course, this does not mean that we shouldn’t strive for even better performance. To that effect, there are several legal tools at global and EU level.
At this point, I want to underline that shipping is the only economic activity that is fully globalized, long before globalization becomes a widespread phenomenon with ideological and political implications.
The rules that govern international shipping are based on UNCLOS (UN Convention on the Law of Seas) and they have to conform to it. Consequently, the most effective way of regulating shipping is by global agreements that ensure the universal application of the agreed regulations in the context of IMO. Otherwise, given the easy change of flags, attempts to introduce unilateral regional arrangements can prove ineffective or bring the opposite of the desired result, despite good intentions.
The international community has a powerful toolbox of regulations to ensure good environmental practices, particularly in the context of MARPOL. We are glad that this toolbox was further enriched with the Ballast Water Management Convention that entered into force some months ago and complements the European Regulation on Invasive Alien Species that was adopted during the Greek Presidency during my time as Minister.
I am convinced that Greece can become part of the so-called “East Mediterranean Hydrocarbon Eldorado”. All the available data indicate that in the coming years Greece as well as Cyprus will join the group of EU Member States which contribute positively to Europe’s energy security through the promotion of indigenous energy resources.
We succeeded in turning the EU’s diversification strategy into a great opportunity for Greece. We did this by ensuring that Caspian gas enters Europe via Greece, through Trans Adriatic Pipeline (TAP) making it the EU’s gateway for the Southern Corridor, upgrading the country’s geo-strategic importance.
Discoveries in offshore Cyprus, Israel, Egypt, and potentially Lebanon will continue to be catalysts for deeper economic and political cooperation, via the development of infrastructure interconnections, energy exchanges and integration.
Following the discovery of Tamar, Leviathan and Aphrodite, Zohr has confirmed the region’s importance for energy security.
In this context, Greece has been developing, particularly since 2011, regional energy cooperations with Cyprus, Israel and Egypt. Their consolidation must continue.
The EastMed pipeline is unique. It envisages connecting the natural gas resources of Cyprus and Israel to Italy- and beyond to other European markets- via Crete and mainland Greece. Apart from enhancing European diversification of sources and routes, this project creates a completely new and secure energy path consisting exclusively of EU States, avoiding over-dependence on the route used for Caspian gas via Turkey. Thanks to advanced technology its capacity has been increased to 10 bcm and can be upgraded to 16 bcm.
There are other significant opportunities we must grasp and act on more dynamically: I am referring to the favorable LNG market which allows Europe to access to well-priced volumes. We should develop the necessary infrastructure: the floating LNG terminal in Northern Greece and the Greek – Bulgarian natural gas Interconnector (IGB Pipeline) can fundamentally enhance the energy security of South East Europe, providing valuable sources of diversified gas and forming the first part of the Vertical Corridor.
These projects, together with the upgrading of the Revythousa LNG terminal and the development of the South East Europe Energy Exchange, form part of a solidly based energy security which aims at the emergence of Greece as an energy hub.
Today, as a result of lower oil prices, reduced demand in Asia and more and more countries exporting LNG prices have fallen.
So we must take advantage of these commercial opportunities and the multiple benefits LNG as a fueling option offers for the environment.
The LNG fleet is growing fast. It is impressive: Today there are about 63 LNG fueled ships already operating world-wide. About 76 orders have been confirmed and by 2018 140 will be in operation.
We must work to promote the necessary port facilities. At present, one of the major obstacles is re-fueling, as significant infrastructure investments are still needed for marine LNG to become a viable solution.
As Minister, I supported LNG as a marine fuel in Greece and encouraged the development of the POSEIDON MED project with EU co-financing. I am pleased that the POSEIDON MED 2 project is now underway, promoting cooperation between Greece, Italy and Cyprus. With the Revythousa LNG terminal and 6 ports – Piraeus, Patra, Igoumenitsa, Heraklion, Limassol and Venice the project can develop LNG as a marine fuel in the Eastern Mediterranean. Looking at the map, I believe that Piraeus, because of its location can play a leading role, similar to Rotterdam for the Baltic region.
We have many opportunities for energy security, including resource exploitation. Many of the challenges are not geological.
They are over-ground, made by men and political. Energy cannot solve them but it provides incentives for cooperation and ambitious regional solutions.
I believe that only a progressive state can co-exist smoothly with global competitiveness and preserve grass-roots loyalty to the ideals of a strong and united Europe.
I am confident that working together we can succeed.