One of the major subjects discussed by US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton last weekend in Greece was apparently the topic of energy. Accompanying the US Secretary of State was none other than special envoy for Eurasian Energy Ambassador Richard Morningstar. According to a revealing article in the Epikaira magazine, which was released today, he was apparently present at the discussions with Hillary Clinton and Greek government officials, including Prime Minister George Papandreou.
A law on privatization of public property passed by the government recently, has left open the possibility of liquidating assets to creditors of all of Greece’s mineral wealth, including its proven reserves, says the article, as well as those that may be discovered in the future and the total potential revenue from them.
The description on the Implementation Law in question, the procedure for selling state property, securities, intangible, existing and future assets of the Greek state through “Fund for the Development of Private Property in SA government” does not make such a development possible; it is just the prelude, but clearly clarified that all revenue absorbed from this action will and has to be used to repay Greece’s debt.
Accompanying this is another law on oil exploration… coincidence?
Just three days after the US Secretary of State left Greece, a new law on the establishment of the institution that would conduct tenders for oil surveys was said to be entering the final stage, while the announcement of an international invitation for seism and geological surveys is expected to follow. According to a separate report by capital.gr a parliamentary committee scheduled a second reading of the bill tomorrow, before it would be tabled to the assembly.
Deputy Environment Minister Yiannis Maniatis has apparently “facilitated” the new institution, as the first two projects have been already launched: the modernization of legislation and the conduction of seismic and geological surveys. Sources told Capital.gr that the international invitation would be published in the coming two weeks and its text is under preparation based on the results of the consultation.
According to senior ministry officials, there have been presentations by three companies specialized in seismic and geological surveys.
Greece’s advantage against the international competition to attract investment in exploration and exploitation of oil deposits, would be the appropriate seismic surveys by companies that are considered reliable. Besides, the non exclusive surveys have this very convenience, that the data are bought by companies which would proceed with assessment and express interest or participate in tenders.
Additionally, said the same report, Greece aims to gain reliability in the part of oil survey and production. So far, Environment Ministry has respected the announced schedule. Should the government continue with the same pace, then the return of Greece on the map of oil surveys would be done under optimum conditions. It should be noted that the surveys would take place at the arc that starts from North Ionian Sea and ends up south of Crete.
What does all this mean and how does it tie together? Simple… the government is formulating various bills in order to sell cheap, and allow “others” to profit BIG in the long-term.
Now back to our story, what were the real reasons behind Mrs. Clinton’s trip to Athens? Obviously we have to speculate, but given the information in hand as written in the article, as well as the various information printed over time we can only conclude that it is connected to oil exploration. Nonetheless, let’s first examine who Richard Morningstar is and I guarantee that with the information presented in Epikaira, Wikipedia and some other sites it will all fit together like a puzzle.
According to the article,Ambassador Richard L. Morningstar was sworn in on June 20, 1999, as US Ambassador to the European Union. His nomination, announced by President Bill Clinton on April 21, 1999, was confirmed by the U.S. Senate on June 17. Since July 1998, Ambassador Morningstar had been Special Advisor to the President and the Secretary of State for Caspian Basin Energy Diplomacy. Ambassador Morningstar was responsible for assuring maximum coordination within the Executive Branch of U.S. policy and programs relating to the development of oil and gas resources in the Caspian Basin. Development of the Caspian and open commercial access to its energy resources are key priorities of the Administration.
In April 1995, Ambassador Morningstar was appointed as Special Advisor to the President and Secretary of State on Assistance to the New Independent States of the former Soviet Union, and on June 11, 1996, the Senate confirmed him with the rank of Ambassador. He oversaw all bilateral assistance and the trade and investment activities of the 16 U.S. government agencies engaged in technical assistance, trade and investment, exchange, weapons dismantlement, and other programs in the NIS. Before he assumed that position, from June 1993 to April 1995, Ambassador Morningstar served as Senior Vice President for Policy and Investment Development at the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC). In that position, he was responsible, among other duties, for the development and implementation of strategies for opening new investment programs in Russia and the other NIS countries, as well as new programs in Eastern Europe, Gaza/West Bank and South Africa. He coordinated OPIC’s seven-fold increase in NIS finance and insurance programs in 1994.
Prior to his position at OPIC, Ambassador Morningstar had more than 20 years of business, policy and legal experience. For over 10 years, he served as Chairman and CEO of Costar Corporation, listed by Forbes as one of the top 200 small companies in the country and recognized as one of the nation’s fastest growing exporters. He has advised the Department of Commerce on international trade and technology issues, and he prepared analysis of the U.S. Trade and Development Agency for the 1992 presidential transition. From 1970 to 1981, Ambassador Morningstar practiced law with the firm of Peabody & Brown in Boston, Massachusetts. Ambassador Morningstar graduated from Harvard College with high honours and received a law degree from Stanford Law School.
In the period 1997-1998, Morningstar apparently appointed Matthew Bryza, to the position of special advisor. Bryza, who is now Ambassador of Azerbaijan was at the time involved in coordinating US Government assistance programs on economic reforms in Caucasus and Central Asia. Starting from July, 1998 he served as the Deputy Special Advisor to the President and Secretary of State on Caspian Basin Energy Diplomacy, coordinating the US Government’s inter-agency efforts to develop a network of oil and gas pipelines in the Caspian region, or so Wikipedia and some other reports say.
(Hmmmm…. Everyone is inter-connected to oil, oil exploration and the energy industry. Coincidence? Both US officials specialize on energy matters.)
In April 2001, Bryza joined the US National Defence Council as Director for Europe and Eurasia, with responsibility for coordinating US policy on Turkey, Greece, Cyprus, the Caucasus, Central Asia, and Caspian energy.
Quoting his remarks in an article that was featured in to BHMA newspaper, the Epikaira magazine said that Bryza, attempted to defame the news that stated that former Greek Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis was successful in landing a deal with Russia on the South-Stream natural gas pipeline, (which was achieved four days earlier), describing it simply as a “statement of intent”. While he also said that all parties should wait to see what the reaction from the European Committee would be on the matter with competitive terms.
(Conclusion: The US was NOT pleased with Karamanlis’ decision to partner with Russia)
On March 16, 2007 an article in the National Review by Bryza said:
“By now, almost everyone in Europe is aware of Russia’s use of energy as a political weapon. Even so, as the EU struggles to reach a common stance toward Russia, the Kremlin is about to extend its control over Greek and Bulgarian energy infrastructures–another ominous development in the relationship between Russia and the EU.
President Putin’s upcoming trip to Athens this week places the Greek leadership in a difficult situation. Greece is expected to approve the Russia-backed Burgas-Alexandroupolis (B-A) oil-pipeline project. If it permits Moscow to create such a valuable infrastructure asset, which will be 51 percent owned by Russia, Athens risks undermining not only its own energy security, but that of the entire European Union. Furthermore, the construction of B-A would strain Greece-Turkey relations.
Greece should instead take the politically difficult but strategically wise decision to shelve the project, thus maintaining its sovereignty, contributing to European energy security, and preserving the critically important energy partnership that it is developing with Turkey.
At issue are two interlinked projects: the B-A oil pipeline and the Turkey-Greece-Italy (TGI) gas pipeline. On both, there exist ways to cooperate that would benefit European energy security and diversification away from Russia.
Increasingly large volumes of oil from Russia and the Caspian flow into the Black Sea and through the Turkish straits to world markets. Since this dangerously narrow and congested waterway cannot handle more oil-tanker traffic, all agree that there is need for at least one bypass pipeline. There are thus several competing proposals for the development of Black Sea export routes, from Ukraine, Romania, Bulgaria, and Turkey. Of these, however, only the Bulgarian route is directly backed by the Kremlin.
B-A, which would begin in the Bulgarian Black Sea port of Bourgas and end at Alexandroupolis on the Greek Aegean coast, is yet another Russian project undertaken not on a commercial basis, but strictly for political reasons. Some companies have been pressured by Russia to support B-A against their will. Although the Greek government seems to believe that it needs this pipeline for strategic reasons, the pipeline will only damage Greek–and European–interests.
Deputy Minister of Industry and Energy Andrei Dementiyev, Russia’s coordinator for the B-A project, stated clearly at the beginning of this month, “With Transneft as the operator of this pipeline, we envisage that Burgas-Alexandroupolis would be a de facto part of our own pipeline system.” While the EU is struggling to come up with a common position in working with Russia, if two of its members–Greece and Bulgaria–give control of their pipelines to Russia, they would be damaging EU solidarity. Because the Greek government seems to be locked into thinking it absolutely needs this pipeline, it has agreed to terms that will leave it under Russian control.
Furthermore, in order to secure oil for B-A, Greece may have to agree to accept the participation of the Russian natural-gas monopoly Gazprom in the separate TGI pipeline–which would entirely negate the whole purpose of a non-Russian gas transit route to Europe. TGI is a win-win project between Turkey and Greece that will deliver Azeri gas to EU markets. Considering Europe’s tremendous need for energy supplies (specifically gas), and in light of Russia’s intimidation-based energy policy towards the EU, access to an alternative source of gas is extremely important. TGI is already making real progress, and by the end of this year Azerbaijan will already start sending small volumes of much-needed gas to Greece via TGI. In nine years Azerbaijan could export one-third of what Russia currently sends to Europe. This significant volume would free the EU to a considerable extent from Moscow’s grip.
If Greece goes ahead with the B-A pipeline, it will lead to tension with Turkey, which prefers the Samsun-Ceyhan bypass route instead. In its attempt to reduce tanker traffic through the Straits, Turkey itself considered an even shorter bypass oil-pipeline that would end in the Aegean, but dropped it in part due to a number of environmental risks. It is now developing a much longer oil pipeline that would bring oil to the Mediterranean port of Ceyhan.
Greece needs to be strategic: it doesn’t need the B-A pipeline, especially not the way it is structured, but it does need the TGI gas pipeline, which is dependent on cooperation with Turkey.
As we have seen before in Lithuania, Poland, and elsewhere, EU and NATO memberships are not sufficient to protect a country from Russian pressure. Now that this is happening again with key EU member and NATO ally Greece, will the transatlantic alliance finally say “enough”?
The Ukrainian gas crisis in January 2006 brought energy security to the forefront of the EU agenda, finally awakening European nations from the apathy they exhibited towards Russia for many years. In a sign of hope, the EU leaders under the leadership of German Chancellor Angela Merkel began to exhibit this new approach when last week in Brussels she agreed on measures to help Europe reduce its reliance on Russia by 2020. Yet, however hopeful, such measures can never be truly effective if a single member state can undermine them. If Greece does not make the right decision next week, it will surrender to the Kremlin a key piece of the EU’s energy infrastructure–turning this strategic vision into a strategic mess.”
(Conclusion: If the government of Costas Karamanlis moved ahead with the deal with Russia then… this would sour the US..)
Of interest as well, according to Epikaira, is an interview of Morningstar that was featured in the Greek daily KATHIMERINI at the end of July last year.
“Trade agreement between Greece and Turkey and pooling of oil and natural gas reserves located in the Aegean Sea, proposes Richard Morningstar, US State Department’s Special Envoy for Eurasia and Energy. The pooling can happen even if the two countries have not previously resolved their differences, says Morningstar.
In an interview to newspaper Kathimerini, the American diplomat with broader experience in energy, recognizes the right of Greece, as a member of the Treaty on the Law of the Sea, to proclaim the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ). He also highlights the benefits to be gained by Greece from participation in the Turkey-Greece-Italy gas pipeline (TGI), and submit a reflection on the Bourgas –Alexandroupolis and South Stream.”
Another interesting article is this (I propose that you click on the links provided as you are reading so that you get a better understanding of the issue before reading further):
US Envoy meets Greek Deputy FM
Richard Morningstar payed a short visit to Athens last weekend, where he held talks Deputy Foreign Minister Spyros Kouvelis. A statement from the Greek Foreign Ministry said that the meeting focused on issues concerning recent developments in the energy sector in the wider region of Southeast Europe and Central Asia, as well as investment prospects in the region.
“More specifically, there was an analysis of the energy planning of Greece and the country’s emergence as a regional energy hub, while emphasis was put on the need for immediate promotion of the ITGI pipeline. Mr. Morningstar showed particular interest in diversification of natural gas supply sources, and in this context there was reference to the development of the Astakos energy centre in cooperation with Qatar, the statement concluded.
Recent Developments on the Aegean “oil”
The meeting between Greek and American officials and the innovative proposal of Morningstar come a month after the STRATFOR report on Greece. There the Texas based Global Intelligence Institute reduced Greece into a status of a “loser” and urged Athens indirectly to cooperate with Ankara on the Aegean natural resources.
Oddly enough deputy Prime Minister Theodoros Pangalos had claimed last May that there is “no oil in the Aegean Sea.” All of a sudden Greece declared to start surveying the Aegean for hydrocarbons at the beginning of June. At the end of the same month the STRATFOR Institute published its report.
And by July Ankara started to send two oceanographic ships, the Piri Reis and the Cesme, to survey “on seismic activity for humanitarian reasons” as Turkey said. The surveys of the two ships in Northern Aegean Sea and East Mediterranean prompted Greek diplomats to issue protest notes and complain to Turkey ‘for violating the Greek continental shelf”. The Piri Reis was surveying until August 20, 2010 and then sailed between Cyprus and the island of Rhodes at international waters.
Conclusion: Obviously there are too many coincidences, there are too many references back to oil exploration, and they raise too many questions on a number of issues.
- There must be hydrocarbons, and/or petrol in the Aegean Sea, and alot of it otherwise why all this hype?
- Is the US pressing Greece to cooperate with Turkey?
- Is common exploitation of natural reserves of the Aegean Sea now inevitable?
- Will the energy map of South-Eastern Europe change further?
- Why were there no efforts to exploit the Aegean Sea for natural resources prior to this?
- Why now?
To answer these questions, I translated some views from an article that was written by Aristotle Vassilakis, and which appeared on the olympia.gr website today. He says that the “Greek crisis” was “fixed” because the overall stakes are the oil and gas in the Aegean. Surveys already done that have measured the amount of natural gas estimate it to reach some nine trillion dollars. The suitors, however, are many and everyone wants a piece of the action. Unfortunately Greece is lying in a gutter because of all of this, and from the consequences of the so called “debt crisis”, while the Trans-Atlantic Protector requires that we open the doors of our country to Turkey so that it too can benefit from this treasure in the depths of OUR SEA.
“This is how I believe all pending issues concerning Greece will get resolved such as the subject of the continental shelf, (expansion of our territorial waters) and other related issues, and a possible casus belli will also end …,” says Vassilakis.
He adds that the formula for the pooling of oil has been found. According to him, some 20% of revenues are to be given to Greece, a further 20% to Turkey and 60% will be directed to a US consortium, which together with Greek ship-owners, will undertake the extraction of the oil.
Ankara and Washington can disagree on Iraq, Iran, Israel, or even on business in Central Asia, however, they are in full agreement on the issue of the Aegean and especially on the price that Greece “ought” to pay.
Washington, according to him, has proposed that the Aegean be split in three, while Ankara has already shown us which part it wants with its bullying. It remains to be seen what Athens’ stance is on all this, what is it planning to do, how does it plan to manage these possible scenarios in the Aegean?
The gist of it all folks is not the Greek-Turkish dispute, but a profound energy game that involves Americans, Russians and Europeans and now Turkey, who decided to join the fun with large claims.
The Cold War is now in the distant past. Today, the debate focuses on energy and in particular, the prevention of a possible energy cooperation between Europe and Russia. On account of Greece’s geopolitical position… the Aegean is unfortunately caught up in this ongoing controversy.
The brutal intent of US officials to want to divide the Aegean in three parts, says Vassilakis, all in the name of black gold comes at a time when the country has totally kneeled economically.
The conclusions therefore are simple, Greece is in deep debt and now a prisoner of the IMF, and so it will give in to pay off with its national wealth.
The idiotic German remarks that said Greeks should sell the Acropolis and the islands to pay off its debts, which were insulting and belittling to Greeks now seem ridiculous in the face of a possible division of the Aegean Sea.