Greek Prime Minister Konstantinos Karamanlis: It is a great pleasure and honour for me to welcome to our country President of the Russian Federation Vladimir Putin and Prime Minister of Bulgaria Sergei Stanishev.
Today is truly a historic occasion that marks a high point in the close and productive cooperation between our countries. It is a milestone on the road towards a promising new future. The agreement on the Burgas-Alexandropoulis oil pipeline, signed after several months of systematic and intensive work, opens the way to carrying out a project of strategic importance for our countries and for the region as a whole. This project, which was in suspension for 14 years, has been settled in the best possible way for our common benefit. It crowns the high-level political, economic, and energy ties that we have developed. It is important for the region in broad terms and will help to develop cooperation between our countries and peoples.
The Burgas-Alexandropoulis oil pipeline, which will transport Russian oil from the Black Sea to the Mediterranean, will create an alternative route to the Black Sea straits. This will relieve the traffic going through the straits and increase environmental safety, thus resolving a long-term problem. This is a project of great importance and we are all the more interested in it as it will facilitate the unhindered supply of oil to broader international markets.
The signature of the intergovernmental agreement between our countries is the first big step towards carrying out the project. This agreement officially confirms the political will of the governments of Greece, Bulgaria and Russia to support this pipeline’s construction and operation. The governments of our three countries will now work with the Russian, Greek, and Bulgarian companies involved in the project and will act in accordance with the commitments we have made, will cooperate just as intensively as has been the case over these last months in order to build the pipeline as rapidly as possible. In this way we will make up for the time lost over the last years and will help to ensure that we occupy a greater place on the international energy map.
Our countries stand to benefit immensely from the Burgas-Alexandropoulis oil pipeline both during its construction and during its operation. This project will create hundreds of jobs and give us new opportunities for development and progress.
I would like to offer my warmest congratulations to the ministers who signed the intergovernmental agreement today: Mr Khristenko, the minister from the Russian Federation, Mr Gagauzov, the Bulgarian minister, and our development minister, Demetris Sioufas, who all worked to achieve this success. Today is a happy day for all of us. It is also a good signal for us to continue our efforts and work methodically and decisively to complete the Burgas-Alexandropoulis pipeline project.
I would like to add that the frequency of our meetings with our friend President Putin confirms the strategic nature the cooperation between our countries has gained. This is Mr Putin’s third visit to Greece in the last two years, and it confirms the excellent state of our bilateral relations.
President Putin and I had the chance to discuss all aspects of our bilateral relations, examine international issues, and look at everything that could help us continue to build on our cooperation. This concerns trade, tourism, and the energy sector. We also discussed international issues, events in the Balkans, the Kosovo issue, and also Russia’s relations with the European Union.
I also had the opportunity to congratulate our friend Prime Minister Stanishev on his country’s joining the European Union. We agreed that we should make use of the experience we gained in cooperating within the framework of the procedures for Bulgaria’s accession to the EU in order to create a new framework for even closer cooperation between two equal partners working together in their common interests.
Once again, I would like to thank President of the Russian Federation Vladimir Putin and Prime Minister Sergei Stanishev for their visit, for taking part in the talks, and for their constructive cooperation.
President Vladimir Putin: Ladies and Gentlemen,
First of all, I would like to thank Prime Minister of Greece Konstantinos Karamanlis and our Greek partners for their hospitality and for ensuring all the conditions for our constructive work together.
Today in Athens we have successfully completed the many years of preparations for beginning construction of the Trans-Balkan Burgas-Alexandropoulis oil pipeline, and we have signed an intergovernmental agreement on cooperation in the pipeline’s construction and operation.
I would particularly like to note the friendly and productive spirit of the partnership that has long since been established between Russia, Bulgaria and Greece. This had a most positive impact on the talks on building the oil pipeline. We were able to find solutions to the most complex problems and settle all issues in the interests of all three countries. This has enabled us to successfully fulfil the agreements we reached together with our Greek and Bulgarian colleagues in September 2006.
The subject of energy cooperation and security, which Russia made one of the key issues on the agenda during its presidency of the G8, continues to be one of the main subjects of discussion in Europe and indeed throughout the world. I would like to reiterate Russia’s point of view on this matter. We think that reliable access to energy supplies is the guarantee for the sustainable and dynamic development of our civilisation. Only by developing a partnership between all countries – between energy producers, consumers, and the transit countries – can we ensure this reliable supply. We think that the Trans-Balkan pipeline project will become a shining example of just such partnership in the energy sector.
I am sure that Russia’s energy potential and the good geographical and transport situation of Bulgaria and Greece will create broad new prospects for cooperation and open up new opportunities for developing major regional centres in Bulgaria and Greece for the transit of Russian energy supplies to the European and world markets.
Regarding bilateral cooperation, I can say once again that our countries share the same or very similar positions on most issues, and this is helping us to fully realise the potential for our cooperation.
During our talks yesterday, we discussed future cooperation between Russia, Bulgaria and Greece in the region, including within the Black Sea Economic Cooperation Organisation. We also discussed this today with our Greek colleagues at the expanded-format meeting. As one of the countries in the Black Sea region, Russia has an interest in strengthening good-neighbourly relations and stability in the region, and in creating good conditions for trade and economic cooperation.
In this respect, I would like to stress that initiatives such as the Trans-Balkan oil pipeline show us the way forward for developing practical multilateral cooperation in the interest of every country in the region without exception, and in the interest of the European continent in general.
We are hopeful that the agreement signed today on carrying out the Burgas-Alexandropoulis project will further strengthen the dialogue on growing interdependence in guaranteeing energy security.
I would like to thank our Bulgarian and Greek colleagues for the productive work together.
Thank you for your attention.
Bulgarian Prime Minister Sergei Stanishev: Ladies and Gentlemen,
First of all, I would like to thank the prime minister, Mr Karamanlis, and note my satisfaction with the agreement signed on building the Burgas-Alexandropoulis oil pipeline. This is an exceptionally important event in the development of our energy partnership. It marks the completion of the first phase of the project and opens up new prospects for further cooperation on an infrastructure project that is of importance not just for this region but for Europe as a whole. The idea of building this oil pipeline goes back quite some years now, but over these last months, the ministers and the working group have worked extremely intensively in a constructive spirit of energy security development, and have come up with mutually beneficial solutions that mean that this project can now become reality. I am very optimistic therefore, regarding the international project development company’s ability to prepare all the technical conditions, including the transit agreement, rapidly and effectively, and I think that the pipeline’s construction will commence successfully in 2008. We need to maintain the pace of work we have set.
Energy is becoming one of the key subjects on the global agenda, and this is true, too, in the European Union. I am certain that the Burgas-Alexandropoulis pipeline’s construction will play an exceptionally important part in guaranteeing energy security for our three countries and in giving big energy and infrastructure projects a greater place on the world map. This project will also have economic benefits for all involved because it will help to bring investment into the countries on whose territories the pipeline is being built. It will create new jobs and guarantee the political and economic stability of the entire region, and above all, in Bulgaria and Greece.
This is a good example of constructive cooperation. During dinner yesterday with President Putin and Prime Minister Karamanlis, and during our talks, we exchanged views on other issues too, on regional issues, including in the Black Sea area and the Western Balkans, and also on the future energy partnership between our countries. I think that not only in the energy sector are there positive trends in our relations, but in other areas too.
I would like to thank once again our host, Mr Karamanlis, and also President Putin, for the excellent atmosphere at our meetings and for the results achieved. I am certain that the pipeline project will benefit the peoples of all three countries and will work in the interests of our good relations.
Question: The signature of this agreement was preceded by lengthy joint work. How will you ensure that it does indeed benefit all three countries taking part?
Konstantinos Karamanlis: This is an important and beneficial project for all the countries involved. Indeed, I would say that this project is important not only for the participating countries. As far as Greece is concerned, the project will create new jobs and bring in new investment. Greece and Bulgaria will gain a place on the world energy map. Aside from the benefits that each of our countries will receive, this project has more general importance in that it will benefit international energy markets by expanding access to oil at a time when energy issues have become crucial for the entire world.
Vladimir Putin: I think that all three of our countries are equally interested in carrying out this project. As my colleague, the Greek Prime Minister, rightly said, the entire international energy market has an interest in this project, above all because it creates the possibility for expanding supplies from the Caspian region. This means that the project will also be of interest to those producing oil in the Caspian region – U.S. and Kazakhstan companies, Azerbaijan. This will increase the supply of energy resources to the world market. Given that Alexandropoulis is a deep water port that can handle tankers of up to 300,000 tons, this project really does take on a global dimension from the point of view of the world market.
As far as Russia is concerned, the project will broaden our possibilities for getting energy resources to the world market, and in the transit countries – Bulgaria and Greece – as was already said, it will create new jobs, help develop modern technology and increase the level of energy security. Part of the project involves building oil storage reservoirs of up to 600,000 tons in Alexandropoulis. We have bigger reservoirs only in the northwest of Russia, where I think the reservoirs at Primorsk can hold up to around a million tons. The significance of this is that in the event of any complications on the world market, Bulgaria and Greece will have sufficient reserves to guarantee that their economies remain stable. As my colleague absolutely correctly pointed out, environmental safety will be at the heart of all work on the project. We will use only the most advanced technology, cutting edge technology, and we will ensure that all of the environmental protection organisations’ demands are met.
Finally, the owner of the pipeline will be a consortium, but the consortium’s activities will be subject to local laws: to Bulgarian law on Bulgarian territory, and to Greek law on Greek territory. All of the consortium’s work will be monitored by national watchdog agencies.
Sergei Stanishev: The pipeline will attract investment to Bulgaria and to Greece. This investment, which will come to several hundred million dollars, will enable the creation of many new jobs. Bulgaria will receive payment for the transit of oil. But these are not the only benefits. The pipeline has great strategic importance and it will bolster Bulgaria’s security and make a big contribution to developing our country and the surrounding region. The rights and interests of other countries are protected.
Also important for us, as the Russian President said, is that the project will use the most advanced technology and take into account environmental protection issues and the importance of the southern Black Sea coastal area for the Bulgaria.
Vladimir Putin: My colleague just mentioned transit fees. This represents quite a large sum of money. The transit countries will receive tens of millions of dollars, and this is no bad thing for these countries. Furthermore, the project will give the participating countries greater importance and a greater voice in resolving energy issues in Europe and the world.
Question: Good afternoon, my question is for all three leaders. You spoke of the importance of this pipeline for guaranteeing energy security. In this respect, what are the environmental protection risks involved? The pipeline will cross some quite fragile and complex nature zones, after all. Is there any possibility that the pipeline’s route might be adjusted accordingly?
Vladimir Putin: Regarding environmental risks, as we said, we will use the most advanced technology available in the world. We already have good experience producing crude oil in the Caspian and building oil terminals and pipelines in the northwest of Russia, in Primorsk, for example. We will most certainly make use of all of this experience and I have absolutely no doubt that we will be able to comply with all the demands of the environmental protection organisations.
Concerning possible adjustments to the pipeline’s route, this would be something we would have to discuss with Bulgaria and Greece. Our position is that everything is possible if it is in the interests of carrying out the project and complying with environmental protection standards. You know what course of action we took with regard to our pipeline project to take oil from eastern Siberia to the Pacific coast. We decided to adjust the pipeline’s route, shifting it almost 400 kilometres, so that it bypasses the water collection system of Lake Baikal. Anything is possible if the need arises. In any case, environmental standards will be one of our prime concerns.
Looking at the project overall, the sooner we start work the better. We have been discussing this project since 1994 and have still not begun construction. Last September, when I was here, I informed the colleagues that construction work had begun on the Eastern Siberia-Pacific coast pipeline. This is a bigger pipeline than the Burgas-Alexandropoulis pipeline. Since then, we have laid almost 700 kilometres of pipeline in Siberia, without roads and electricity and in winter temperatures of down to minus 40 degrees. We have laid 700 kilometres of pipeline in six months, while here, the entire pipeline is just 277 kilometres, and we have been talking about it since 1994.
Question: What effect do you think the construction of this pipeline could have on other energy projects in the region, and what impact will it have on stability in the Balkans?
Vladimir Putin: This project will most certainly strengthen stability not only in the Balkans but on the entire world energy market. This is without a doubt, and for at least two reasons. First, it makes it possible to expand energy supplies to the global market, and second, by creating an alternative supply route it adds to diversification and thus will contribute to stabilising the situation on the world market and in the region in general.
As for the effect on other pipeline systems, I said already that this will give us the opportunity to look at expanding supplies via Russia of additional production from the Caspian region. The project will therefore help us to implement agreements on other quite sensitive projects in which we all have an interest. As for the impact on existing and already functioning pipeline systems, the project will not have any negative effect, because we are not talking about drawing oil flows away from one system and into another, but about new flows from Russia and from countries that transport their energy resources via Russia.
Sergei Stanishev: We should keep in mind that there has been a clear trend over recent years of increasing consumption of oil and other energy resources and the creation of new infrastructure to supply energy resources. It is a combination of these factors – increased oil production in Russia and the Caspian region, and increased demand – that are behind the Burgas-Alexandropoulis project. The pipeline will also be useful, of course, in terms of ensuring stable energy supplies, because reliable energy supplies are of general importance in guaranteeing economic stability and development. The pipeline will cross the territory of two EU member states and will therefore make a significant contribution to guaranteeing stable energy supplies and will become a part of the European Union’s overall energy strategy. This will bring benefits to both Bulgaria and Greece, and of course to Russia too, as the main energy producer looking for good supply routes for its increasing production volumes. The pipeline will therefore be useful not only for our countries but will have benefits for other countries that also have an interest in its completion and operation.