The plenary of the Greek Parliament has ratified four leases that grant the right to explore and develop Greece’s oil and gas resources, the Environment and Energy Ministry said on February 28. These contracts relate to offshore Block 2 in the Ionian Sea and onshore blocks in Arta-Preveza, Aitoloakarnania (Central Greece) as well as the Northwest Peloponnese.

“With a serious methodical approach, sobriety, transparency, and a special focus on the strict protection of the environment, we are proceeding step by step to take advantage of all the existing development possibilities in the hydrocarbon sector,” Greece’s Environment and Energy Minister Giorgos Stathakis told the plenary.

The contracts that were ratified, the Minister stressed, have attracted the interest of international energy groups that include France’s Total and Italy’s Edison.

At the same time, US energy giant ExxonMobil has expressed interest in exploring another area of the country, the island of Crete, which is expected to start immediately.

The lease for Block 2 in the Ionian Sea, with Total, Edison, and Hellenic Petroleum, will be used as a blueprint for future agreements to be signed in Greece, the Greek Environment and Energy Ministry said, adding that Strategic Environmental Impact Study explicitly excludes Natura sites and requires a safety zone of one kilometre.