Greece is an area of great interest for fossil fuels, while the latest technology creates new prospects for hydrocarbon drilling and exploration, Environment and Energy Minister George Stathakis noted in an interview with the Athens-Macedonian News Agency (ANA) on Sunday.

“It is now possible for exploration to be carried out at much greater sea depths, with greater rates of accuracy in the estimates made. It is also possible to drill at much greater depths, in ways that are environmentally safe. On land, also, the new technology permits methods that are more environmentally friendly and more efficient,” he noted.

Greece’s position at a meeting point of tectonic plates and its proximity to areas where significant hydrocarbon reserves have been found creates a “series of new facts that generate optimism,” Stathakis added.

Following agreements signed last Thursday for the leasing of exploration rights in three mainland areas of western Greece, Stathakis said the next step would be the signing of concessions leasing underwater exploration rights in Block 2 and Block 10 in the Ionian Sea, west of Corfu and Kyparissia Bay. He revealed that the ministry was currently working on a Joint Ministerial Decision approving the environmental impact study for the projects and on improving the legislative framework for hydrocarbon exploration and drilling, in line with best practices in other countries.

“The aim is to improve the framework for investors but also for the best protection of the environment and the safety of the workforce,” he said.

Stathakis confirmed that there was “strong and rekindled interest” in the exploitation of Greek hydrocarbon reserves in the Ionian Sea and south of Crete from major global actors, especially in the wake of the discovery of the massive Zohr natural gas field in Egyptian waters.

Responding to criticism that the government had delayed the signing of the concessions, the minister said that the government’s strategy had been to proceed calmly, without “exaggerations and hurried moves”.

“The fact is that in Greece we do not have the experience and required expertise – that we are required to sail on unknown waters. For this precise reason, in the present phase we are amassing knowhow, so as to proceed with the necessary changes to the legal framework for hydrocarbons,” he said.

Using the experience of countries such as Cyprus, he added, efforts would be made to significantly reduce the time between the expression of interest and the signing of agreements.

Regarding the negotiations with the creditors regarding the state power company, the Public Power Corporation (PPC), Stathakis said the government had succeeded in deflecting pressures to agree to the ‘small PPC’ plan and reached an agreement that averted the sale of PPC power plants, retaining the company’s role as the main “pillar” of the power market.

“It is natural for the PPC’s management to seek business strategies to adapt to the new conditions of a single and deregulated European energy market….Responsible for the negotiation is the government, which is the main shareholder of PPC. The company’s management is called on, taking these parameters as given, to design its strategy,” he said.

Asked about the upcoming Eurogroup and whether this will lead to a deal on Greece’s debt, Stathakis noted that June 15 was the final date for reaching an agreement “not only for Greece to participate in quantitative easing but also for the participation of the International Monetary Fund (IMF).” If the IMF did not decide to participate in the Greek programme, he pointed out, the German Parliament will have to issue a new decision, “which is something that nobody wants.”

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The Athens-Macedonian News Agency (AMNA) (Greek: Αθηναϊκό-Μακεδονικό Πρακτορείο Ειδήσεων, AΜΠΕ) is a Greece-based news service. It is a public entity anonymous company. It was founded in 2008 as the Athens News Agency - Macedonian Press Agency S.A. (ANA-MPA SA), under a presidential decree which merged the Athens News Agency (ANA SA) and the Macedonian Press Agency (MPA SA).