Tagesspiegel: Greece an unexpected winner of the pipeline race

The Southern gas corridor
The Southern gas corridor Credit © Euractiv.gr

“Nabucco” is an Italian opera composed by Giuseppe Verdi, largely based on biblical story in regard with the plight of the Jews as they were assaulted, defeated and eventually exiled from their homeland by Nabucco, the king of Babylon. These dramatic events serve as background for an enchanting story about romance and power and therein lies the common element between the Nabucco pipeline and the same-named opera, whose final act brought tears of sorrow in Wien and of joy in Athens.



The gas pipeline was initiated by U.S. President George W. Bush and suggested a consortium of Austria, Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria, Turkey Germany. With Austria being the endpoint of a more than 3,300-km long pipeline and host of many prominent opera houses, it was inevitable that the domestic press was very keen on giving a more accurate account of the failure to small Greece. The portal format.at regrets the abandonment of an 11 year project that was about to be completed by 2013, estimated to have an annual capacity of 31 billion cubic meters of gas transported from Azerbaijan to Austria. Not without a tone of resentment, the Austrian journalists remark on the general absence of any European interest for the Central Asian country, with the exception of the Eurovision contest. Nevertheless, on the 26th of June the Azeri President Ilham Aliyev, acting as a representative of the mighty Shah-Deniz-2 consortium, announced that the smaller competitor TAP was granted the contract. Nabucco expert Gerhard Mangott told the portal that "the operating costs of TAP lie between 2-3 billion euros, whereas Nabucco could have cost 2 or 3 times more". From a more geopolitical viewpoint the decisive factor was the prospective of the Azeri gas flowing from Italy into new, unsaturated markets such as Montenegro or Albania, a route that was unfeasible from the Lower Austrian terminal hub of Baumgarten.

The construction of the TAP pipeline and the access to the largest natural gas field in Azerbaijan would enable Greece to negotiate better terms for its citizens, although a similar process with the Troika is far from suggesting a successful precedent

On the other hand, the German newspaper Tagesspiegel promptly announced the death of a King (“Nabucco is dead”) and Greece as the “unexpected winner”. PM Samaras and Deputy PM Venizelos were informed on the same day but they both were reported to be struggling to suppress their high spirits and to hardly be able to wait until the 25th, so as to disseminate the great news. According to a study of the Greek, industry-oriented research institute IOBE the pipeline could contribute per year around 340 million euros to the Greek GDP and could also create directly about 2,000 and indirectly another 10,000 jobs. The new pipeline will also further diversify the Greek gas supplies because so far, the country's needs are covered up to 80% by the Russian state company Gazprom, while the remaining 20% enters in liquid form stored in tankers coming mainly from North Africa. Only the future will tell if Greek consumers have any reason to rejoice, since according to Eurostat, they pay the 3rd -highest gas prices in the EU. Experts blame the main supplier Gazprom, which in turn offered to cut prices, when the existing supply contracts expire in 2016.However, the construction of the TAP pipeline and the access to the largest natural gas field in Azerbaijan would enable Greece to negotiate better terms for its citizens, although a similar process with the Troika is far from suggesting a successful precedent.


This time, by Bloomberg Agency, was also focused on the fact that the choice of TAP made by the managing companies of the Azerbaijani field Shah Deniz was mainly based on cost-profit calculations. For instance, commercial criteria such as the cost of gas transportation to the market and the current product prices in each country played a vital role in the final decision. Therefore, the fact that the prices of gas in Greece and Italy are higher than those of Bulgaria and Romania (which were in the Nabucco route) together with the lower cost of transportation from the source (that TAP ensures)  formed a final cost difference that was estimated at billions of dollars, according to the President of BP in Azerbaijan, Al Cook.


Finally, in a relevant article, Le Figaro focuses on the great loser of this decision, the Nabucco pipeline, a project that was politically supported by Washington as well as Brussels. Having some of the biggest Central- European energy companies as a kingpin, Nabucco aimed at curbing the Gazprom monopoly, with gas coming from Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan and even from Iraqui Kurdistan or Iran. However, according to the columnist, the project showed major weaknesses from the outset, mainly concerning the participation and promotion by the companies involved. The final choice of TAP meant the end of a project that had been in progress for over 10 years, while, at the same time it gives encouraging messages to a country still suffering from the economic crisis, like Greece.




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