By Ioannis Michaletos


A phrase heard loud in the present day Greek political & social environment is: Energy Politics. Just a few years ago Athens was more or less indifferent to the seismic changes happening in the energy industry. Suddenly it has been entangled to some of the most fascinating and sensitive energy gambles of the 21st century.

An everyday scene in most newspapers and TV shows is the existence of pundits and politicians discussing in detail how the creation of pipelines will affect the country, what is the role of the larger states and even how all of these affect the balance of powers in the Balkans and beyond. A plethora of articles appear on a regular basis and tend to confirm that without knowledge of the energy sector, one excludes himself from any intelligent discussion.


What is more intriguing is the creation of a "Market in process" that wants to take advantage of the projects-to-be-constructed such as the South Stream or the Burgas-Alexandroupoli pipeline. In a recent meeting with a high-profile Greek manager who is well-established in a Balkan country, information was relayed that there are plans of creating an "Energy security consultancy" in order to get involved in the drafting of plans that aim to secure the existence of the new infrastructure. Certainly a good idea, if one firstly asks himself two very important questions: Are these projects going to be completed after all? And what exactly are the threats that need extra guidance apart from that provided by the state and the participating companies themselves?

Greece is often characterized by sudden surges of business expectations that tend to exaggerate around the prospects of new markets, and especially ones that have the necessary ambience to become attractive to your average investor. Large capital, international antagonism and obscure future projections create a dynamic mix on which everyone assumes he'll be the one achieving the great breakthrough and provide his invaluable insight in the energy giants wanting to invest in the country. That has as a consequence a lack of realism when dealing with managers from abroad that have extensive experience in dealing with complex projects that Greeks have recently discovered. Ultimately failure in communication results in failed business talks.

A second issue is the one, best described as B.A.N.A.N.A. No it's not the tasty fruit but a neo-term coined by the acronyms: Build Absolutely Nothing Absolutely Nowhere At all.

In a business environment where big plans are announced in a constant pace around photovoltaic parks, wind farms and even anthracite power stations, most of the citizens seem adamant in understanding the reasons for such an expansion. Fear of environmental degradation fuelled by a protest from the mushroomed ecological NGO's, hinders any real result. Further, the sudden appearance of multiple energy projects leaves no reasonable time space for scientists to explain the pros and cons of every plan. In short a typical ‘Greek chaos' casts another shadow in the overall picture.

The role of the administration in charge and even that of the EU is fundamental. Both want to establish alternative energy production, diversify import sources and secure the growth of the economy. Both are also incapable of informing intelligently around the real prospects of the investments and the real threat that delays can have for the domestic and even the European energy market.

Without wanting to be more pessimistic, the picture would not be complete if it weren't for the fierce antagonism between the labour unions of the Greek power corporation and the management. As a result a series of strikes tend to become a nightmare for the whole of the economy, at the same time that the company is on a dilemma in which direction it should follow in the future. The workers demand that no change occurs, whilst the management is on the verge of proceeding into revolutionary changes by establishing joint ventures units with the likes of RWE and other European companies. The result of this ongoing trial, will determine the real prospects of the Greek power in the future, either as a stagnant semi-state organization or as an adapting one in the new energy landscape.

Athens is striving to find its place in the new energy planning that is being debated and discussed worldwide. Blessed by its significant geopolitical placement and an abundance of scientific human resources, it has plenty of opportunities in achieving an important role. On the other hand backward voices are being heard louder, feeling cozy in keeping their decades-old mentality of no-risk.

Certainly an interesting battle has begun on an intellectual level, a favorite Greek sport since antiquity. Energy politics in the country will be formed by the ongoing debates being developed from the provisional taverns to the high level ones in the Parliament. Hopefully that won't end in a Greek tragedy of loosing historical opportunities that appear scarcely in history.