ATHENS – Greece’s energy sector is a vital pillar of the transition to sustainable growth and has helped boost the EU’s energy security, European Commission Vice President for Energy Union Maroš Šefčovič has said.

Speaking at the 2nd Sustainability Summit for South-East Europe and the Mediterranean in Athens on October 1, Šefčovič noted that Greece has a strategic geographical location and variable sources of energy.

Greece is important for the region of southeast Europe, he said. “I’m a strong believer that Greece will play an even more important role when it comes to energy transition and tackling climate change because Greece has several comparative advantages. You have sizeable and variable sources of energy. You have strategic geographical location in the crossroads between Europe, Asia, and Africa and … you’re building new interconnections not only for electricity but also for gas and that’s what makes the market here much better interconnected,” said Šefčovič.

He also noted that after the Russian-backed South Stream pipeline was cancelled, the EU and Greece worked on implementing the Central and South Eastern Europe Energy Connectivity project to secure gas supplies in the region.

“Greece is playing a very important role not only in getting the Caspian gas to Europe but also through the connector with Bulgaria up to the north and through your investment into the LNG terminal, you’re also linking this region with the global market which is very, very important for the energy security not only of Greece but the whole region,” Šefčovič told the audience in Athens, referring to the Interconnector-Greece-Bulgaria and the liquefied natural gas terminal in Alexandroupolis in northern Greece.

The European Commission Vice President also hailed what will be the first autonomously renewable green Mediterranean island of Tilos. The EU plans to use the project as a blueprint for other small islands that have limited grid connection to the mainland.

Stressing the importance of sustainability in tackling climate change, Šefčovič quoted the Greek ancient philosopher Socrates, stressing that the secret of change is to focus not on fighting the old but on building the new.

Sustainability is not a choice but a must, as we’re increasingly faced with unpredictable daunting consequences of climate change and resource depletion, he said. Similarly multilateralism is compelling, as Climate Action must go beyond purely national solutions, he said. “It is very important to remind all the global actors how important a multilateral approach is and how important it is to act as a global community as we demonstrated in negotiating and signing the Paris Agreement,” he said.

The EU is looking at the promotion of renewables and the promotion of energy efficiency not only as a way to protect the environment but also as an important tool how to increase the bloc’s energy security.

“In Europe we import almost all our energies, but we have indigenous sources and thanks to increased use renewables we are now saving 30 billion of euros,” he said. “I think that in the future what would be very important is the investment in these technologies, actually lowering the cost of renewables dramatically and this will allow us also to change how we trade electricity, how we generate electricity and how to start this modernisation of the overall economy,” Šefčovič said, before adding “All economies would have a chance on this sustainability train and Europe has the advantage that we’re not only on the train, but I believe that we’re driving the locomotive.”

Meanwhile, on the sidelines of the sustainability summit, Greece’s former deputy Foreign Minister Spyros Kouvelis, who is the director of the newly launched Sustainable Development Goals Centre, told New Europe that it is important to coordinate the cooperation between countries in southern Europe and those neighbouring nations to the north, including the North Mediterranean and the South and East Mediterranean, to tackle problems that affect the whole of Europe, including climate change, desertification, migration and poverty.

“We need to find ways to make the best use of the tools that we have in Europe which is policies, funding, new technologies and so on, in order to address those problems is the most important thing for all of Europe,” Kouvelis said.

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