MOSCOW, May 26 (UPI) -- Working with the Greek government, Russian President Vladimir Putin said his country could make regional energy aspirations for Europe a possibility.
Putin, before arriving in Greece later this week, published an article in the Greek daily Kathimerini that describes how the island nation could help support Russia's energy ambitions in southern Europe.
"As we are aware of the Greek government's plans to turn the country into a considerable energy junction in the Balkans, we have persistently included Greece in the plans to build up supplies of hydrocarbons to Central and Western Europe," he wrote.
A joint venture formed by Italian engineering company Bonatti and its Greek counterpart, J&P AVAX, secured two contracts this year for pipelines that will run through northern Greece to the Albanian border from the consortium leading the Trans-Adriatic natural gas pipeline. TAP will start delivering gas from the Shah Deniz gas project offshore Azerbaijan to European consumers in 2019 and is part of a broader regional effort to wean the market off Russian gas.
Russia supplies about a quarter of Europe's gas, though much of that runs through Ukraine, where regional conflicts have created risks to energy security.
Russian energy company Gazprom, under competition pressure from the European Commission, proposed the so-called Turkish Stream gas pipeline as an alternative to a broader South Stream pipeline network meant to feed European markets. Bulgaria's decision in 2014 to back away from South Stream led in part to a derailment of the project.
"Gazprom has been actively promoting the South Stream project but its implementation became impossible because of a prohibitive position taken by the European Commission," Putin wrote. "Although we had to curtail the project, the issue of southern routes for deliveries of our energy resources to the EU member-states remains on the agenda."
The board of directors at Gazprom met in Moscow last week to review long-term objectives in the natural gas market. While Europe is one of its main customers, the company said it aims to increase its gas export options for Asia.