THESSALONIKI - "Ι can say with great confidence that, from an American perspective, the time to invest in Greece is now," U.S. Ambassador in Athens Geoffrey Pyatt said on Friday at the Southeast Europe Energy Forum 2019 taking place in Thessaloniki.
Pyatt welcomed the new Greek government's "ambitious programme" for cutting through red tape and attracting direct foreign investments to boost the Greek economy.
"I know that the government is fully committed to working with the private sector and moving forward with reforms, and their intention is to exceed expectations and to demonstrate results as rapidly as possible," he added.
Pyatt went on to commend the new government’s enthusiasm for the offshore exploration permit by ExxonMobil, Total, and Hellenic Petroleum: "we look forward to the permit’s final ratification in Parliament. We believe that offshore exploration here in Greece holds great potential, and what better partner to help grow Greece’s economy than ExxonMobil, the largest publicly traded petroleum and petrochemical enterprise in the world?"
He also expressed appreciation for the government’s commitment to streamline the process for obtaining renewable energy permits and to create a level and transparent playing field for investors.
"American companies have much to offer Greece in this domain—the very best in American technology, innovation, and sustainable, environmentally friendly practices—as proven by GE’s new wind energy park in Kato Lakomata," he said.
"The government’s planned “roadmap” for renewable permit auctions, the consolidation of foreign direct investment-related branches under a new 'one-stop' service at the MFA, and the ratification of the ExxonMobil permit will sound the clarion call that American investors have been waiting for. I am confident that American investment will play a crucial role in Greece’s energy future, including upcoming privatizations like Hellenic Petroleum," he added.
Pyatt then expressed the United States' gratitude for Greece’s leadership as the guardian and regional integrator of European energy security and diversification. "With the 4.5 billion-euro TransAdriatic Pipeline near completion and construction on the Gas Interconnector Greece-Bulgaria commencing shortly, energy projects are driving opportunities in northern Greece, creating jobs while enhancing Greece’s regional standing," he said.
The ambassador also referred to a visit by U.S. Secretary for Commerce Wilbur Ross to Athens on Wednesday and Thursday, noting that the U.S. was keeping its promise to maintain the momentum in its relationship with northern Greece after its "landmark success" as honoured country at the 2018 Thessaloniki International Fair (TIF).
"The Secretary, who led our high-level government delegation to TIF last year, will host a business roundtable lunch for the Prime Minister in New York (25/9) at the end of the month, capitalising on our recent gains and planting the seeds for increased trade and investment.
"Our renewed presence, USA@TIF2019, will focus on sharing our experiences and expertise in entrepreneurship, innovation, and technology," he said.
Pyatt also referred to the U.S. involvement in the northern Greek city of Alexandroupoli, noting that this has become "an even more crucial link to European energy security, regional stability, and economic growth."
"We are working with the Greek government on a 2.3 million-dollar project, funded by the U.S. Army, to remove the sunken dredger “Olga” from the port of Alexandroupolis, making the port a more usable and valuable asset for Greece. Removing the “Olga” will increase its attractiveness for commercial investment opportunities.
Additional opportunities like improved interconnection with North Macedonia, new infrastructure like the East Med pipeline, and enhanced natural gas capacity like the FSRU at Alexandroupolis will further consolidate Greece’s position as a leader in regional energy diversity, he added.
The ambassador also promoted Greece’s involvement in the Three Seas Initiative, "which Acting Assistant Secretary Reeker also advocated with our European partners during the Three Seas Summit in Slovenia in June."
The Three Seas Initiative seeks to strengthen regional coordination among EU member states on north-south energy, transport, and communications corridors.
"Greece has been very active in bridging the flow of energy from east to west, and the Three Seas Initiative presents Greece with an additional strategic opportunity to collaborate with its EU partners from Central and Eastern Europe. Participation in the Three Seas Initiative promises Greece additional investment opportunities in business, transportation connections, energy infrastructure, and digital communications. As Secretary Perry said, Greece is a natural fit in this forum," Pyatt said.
Εnergy will undoubtedly play a significant role in Greece’s future and in the future of northern Greece in particular, he added, "and the United States will remain Greece’s committed advocate and partner in this sector."