Greece becomes a hub for supplying LNG to the Balkans, Central Europe and Ukraine
“Greece is becoming an energy hub to bring liquefied natural gas, not only to cover the needs of our country, but also to supply natural gas to the Balkans, to central Europe, why not to Ukraine. So, in this regard, this role for other countries becomes very important,” Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said in an interview with Bloomberg TV on Tuesday.
He added that Greece wants to become a net exporter of green electricity to Central Europe.
“This means that we need more interconnections to Central Europe. But we can also be the intermediary country that will connect Europe to North Africa. We are talking to the Egyptians. We are proposing a very ambitious cable of three gigawatts that will connect Africa to Greece. And of course to have a three gigawatt cable, you need ten gigawatts of installed renewable energy to generate electricity,” he said.
“The economy has been performing better, will grow almost 6% this year,” he said and added, “It gives us fiscal space to support our citizens. And of course, we are probably the only country that has been able to recycle the profits of energy producers to support our citizens. We actually imposed – this may almost sound like a kind of socialist or communist – but we imposed a 90% tax on windfall profits from power producers in the first six months of 2022. So we are recovering a significant amount of money from our power producers to support businesses and households.”
The Prime Minister’s full interview with Bloomberg TV follows:
Francine Lacqua: I couldn’t be happier to be joined by Kyriakos Mitsotakis, the Greek Prime Minister. Prime Minister, thank you for joining us. I think this is your first and our first interview of the day here from Sharm. Are you optimistic about getting things done? I know it’s not a COP title. We are not expecting huge pledges. We are waiting for money. Are we going to transfer money from richer countries to poorer countries to fight climate change?
Kyriakos Mitsotakis: I am reasonably optimistic that progress will be made on this critical front. You are right to point out that the real outstanding issue is financing the transition and making it more affordable for low-income poor countries to transition to green energy and a more sustainable future.
There is a lot of momentum, a lot of commitment from private actors, big companies, NGOs and I think we all understand, with every passing day there is a new climate crisis somewhere. We know that climate change is happening much faster than we thought and it is becoming – in a way – common knowledge that requires an urgent response.
Francine Lacqua: Prime Minister, is it difficult to give money for operations or things like that when we are facing a huge energy security crisis? So of course, in Europe, coupled with the cost of living, it’s going up. And many people who have to make very difficult choices during the winter?
Kyriakos Mitsotakis: Hard choices have to be made. But at the same time, we know that we must redouble our efforts in the green transition. Let me give you the example of Greece. We have ten gigawatts of renewable energy installed. Ten days ago it was a beautiful sunny and windy day. We ran the whole country for 5 hours in terms of electricity consumption simply thanks to renewable energy. And we understand that focusing on renewable energy is cheaper but also geopolitically safer. And in addition, it helps to reduce our emissions. So these projects are sort of positive NPV projects and that’s why I expect a significant acceleration in renewables all over the world.
Francine Lacqua: But do energy security concerns really change your plans? For example, for coal-fired power plants?
Kyriakos Mitsotakis: In the short term, yes. We intend to extend our production from coal for maybe two, three years. But moving away from coal is a decision we made that will not change. What will change is the diversity of natural gas supply. We know we will need natural gas for the foreseeable future. Greece is becoming an energy hub for bringing in liquefied natural gas, not only to cover our country’s needs, but also to supply natural gas to the Balkans, to central Europe, why not to Ukraine. So in this regard, this role for other countries becomes very important.
Francine Lacqua: First of all, you are trying to also build a cable, okay, from Egypt to Greece which will import green energy and then at the same time this connection, for example to Germany.
Kyriakos Mitsotakis: We want to become a net exporter of green electricity to Central Europe. This means that we need more interconnections to central Europe. But we can also be the intermediary country that will link Europe to North Africa. We talk to the Egyptians. We are proposing a very ambitious three gigawatt cable that will connect Africa to Greece. And of course, to have a three gigawatt cable, you need ten gigawatts of installed renewable energy to generate electricity.
Francine Lacqua: When we look at the crisis that we are managing and that we are returning to coal-fired power plants, do you believe in general, because of the war in Ukraine, that the transition will be longer but then more aggressive towards green ? or does it just take longer? So is it postponed?
Kyriakos Mitsotakis: Actually, it must be faster, especially when…
Francine Lacqua: It has to be, but will it be?
Kyriakos Mitsotakis: You have to. And when we look at how we deploy our capital, European money, but also private capital, we know for example that we need more infrastructure in our networks. For us, this is of paramount importance, because at some point we will no longer be able to install renewable energies unless we invest more in networks. But security of supply is becoming a major issue. Renewable energy is the safest, cleanest and cheapest form of energy today, especially for countries like Greece.
Francine Lacqua: Prime Minister, tell me a bit about the cost of living crisis. In fact, in terms of growth, Greece is doing quite well compared to other nations. The cost of living crisis is still real and affects many of your fellow citizens.
Kyriakos Mitsotakis: It is, and that is why we support citizens in various ways. The economy has been performing better, will grow at almost 6% this year. This gives us budgetary leeway to support our fellow citizens. And of course, we are probably the only country that has been able to recycle profits from energy producers to support our citizens. We actually imposed – it may almost sound like a kind of socialist or communist – but we imposed a 90% tax on the windfall profits of power producers in the first six months of 2022. So we get back a sum significant money on our energy producers to support businesses and households.
Francine Lacqua: Greece went through a huge austerity program, in fact also through the IMF. I don’t know if you have any advice or if you have contacted the British Prime Minister, as to the things they need to do about the very difficult two months we have seen in the UK.
Kyriakos Mitsotakis: I think what we’ve seen in the UK is very clear: you can’t fool the markets. If you offer a program that is not well funded, the markets will ask questions, whether you are a small country or a large one. We learned our lessons in Greece. So we know that everything we do has to be financially sustainable. And again, if we’re doing well, it’s because we’ve managed to combine high growth with reasonable fiscal policy. I refused calls, for example, for horizontal VAT reductions, which would make a big dent in our budget without necessarily delivering low prices. So we know we have to be targeted in terms of support and kind of very focused on supporting the most vulnerable households.
Francine Lacqua: Prime Minister, I know that we also talked a lot this weekend about the spy scandal. Can you confirm what you know? Is it correct that journalists and others were taped and cabled?
Kyriakos Mitsotakis: Absolutely not. I have made it very clear that the recent publication that has emerged in Greece is absolutely false. I’ve been very clear in acknowledging that in Europe we have a problem with illegal spyware – it’s not just a Greek problem, we’ve seen it in many European countries – and we need a European regulations to remedy this. I hope Greece will be the first country in Europe – by next month we will ban all illegal spyware that can be sold outside of Greece. So we have to take this, which is a real problem, and turn it into an opportunity.
Francine Lacqua: Prime Minister, I know you’re not going to talk to me about American politics, but what kind of, you know, we have the midterms, which could actually change the composition of certain decisions on taxation, debt ceiling. So the economic policies coming from the United States. What impact does this have on Europe? What kind of partner does Europe need in the United States of America?
Kyriakos Mitsotakis: Let me talk about the US-Greek relationship, which is at an all-time high, and I expect it to remain so regardless of what happens in the US Congress. Greece is a strategic partner for the United States in a difficult part of the world. And no matter what happens in Congress, I expect that won’t change.
Francine Lacqua: Prime Minister, thank you very much, as always, for all your time. Hope to see you in London very soon.
Kyriakos Mitsotakis: Thank you very much.
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