ATHENS Jan 31 Greece and Italy on Wednesday
signed an agreement for the construction of an underwater
natural gas pipeline which will help ease Europe's
over-dependance on Russian gas.
Greece has been eager to sign the deal, seeking to become an
energy hub linking central Asia to Europe, while Italy wants to
diversify its energy supply and ease reliance on Russia.
Pierluigi Bersani, Italy's Minister of Economic Development,
and Greek Development Minister Dimitris Sioufas, signed the
agreement which grants exclusive usage rights to Italy's Edison
EDN.MI and Greece's natural gas company DEPA.
The Greece-Italy pipeline will be connected to Turkey's
pipeline network, enabling Italy and the rest of the European
Union to import 8 billion cubic meters of natural gas a year
from the Caspian Sea basin and the Middle East.
"We have done something that in the future will lead us to
more security as far as energy is concerned," said Bersani.
"This means diversification in supply and allows us to feed the
market with larger quantities and be more flexible in pricing."
To make the construction of the pipeline economically
viable, the two companies will have the right to use its
capacity for 25 years.
Under the agreement, 80 percent of the 8 billion cubic
meters transmission capacity will be reserved for Edison and
DEPA will have 20 percent.
If capacity increases beyond the 8 billion mark, up to 10
percent will be allowed to be sold to third parties.
Edison and DEPA have already started talks with
gas-producing countries in the region, while the pipeline may
even be expanded in the future to include sources from north
Africa, Sioufas said.
"This pipeline offers prospects for building a connecting
network to Albania and the former Yugoslav Republic of
Macedonia," Sioufas said. "For Greece its also important because
we can provide gas to the centre and north of the country."
The pipeline will be about 800 kilometers long, 600
kilometers of which will be built by DEPA in Greece, with the
remaining 200 kilometers running under the Ionian sea between
Greece and Italy.
Construction of the pipeline from the Greek town of
Igoumenitsa to Italy's Apulia is set to begin in July 2008 and
is scheduled to be completed in 2011.
Pipeline construction linking Greece and Turkey is well
under way and expected to be finished by the second half of