Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis’ remarks at the event that marks the beginning of the commercial operation of the Natural Gas Interconnector Greece – Bulgaria (IGB)

Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis made an introductory statement at the ceremony for the beginning of the commercial operation of the Natural Gas Interconnector Greece – Bulgaria (IGB), held today in Sofia. The Prime Minister’s entire speech follows:

Thank you for that very warm introduction.

Madam President, dear Presidents, Prime Ministers,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is indeed a distinct pleasure and honor to join you today, here in Sofia, for the ceremony marking the beginning of the commercial operation of the Interconnector between Greece and Bulgaria (IGB). Nearly two months ago at Komotini, together with the then Bulgarian Prime Minister Kiril Petkov, we celebrated the completion of the construction of this energy bridge that brings Greece and Bulgaria even closer together, while – as has been pointed out – dramatically changing the energy map of our region.

Mr. President, dear Rumen, the beginning of the IGB’s commercial operation constitutes an exceptional moment not just for Southeast Europe, but, Madam President, for Europe more broadly, as this pipeline significantly bolsters energy and supply security for all interconnected countries in the Balkans, as well as that of the European continent as a whole.

This pipeline – as has been pointed out – has been the culmination of cooperation and coordinated efforts between our two governments over the last years. I have worked on this project very closely, very intensely with my counterparts, Prime Minister Borisov and Prime Minister Petkov, the interim governments. And I think the broader geopolitical importance of this pipeline is also recognized and underscored by the presence today of the Heads of State and Government of Azerbaijan, of Serbia, of North Macedonia and Romania.

This pipeline – as President Aliyev pointed out – will bring natural gas from Azerbaijan to Bulgaria, breaking the stranglehold of Russian gas on Bulgaria and of course it will, in conjunction with the rest of the infrastructure projects underway in the region, contribute to the development of a reliable natural gas network.

As many of you pointed out, when these projects were designed, quite a few years ago, not many believed that they could be materialised. But, indeed, today we are happy to be initiating this project and we are also happy that my country, Greece, is playing an increasingly active role in becoming a regional energy hub that will serve the needs, not just of Greece, but of all countries in the region.

Many of you mentioned the very important project taking place in Alexandroupoli, floating storage and regasification unit which will be ready by the end of 2023, which will allow us to import significantly increased quantities of LNG, not just into Greece, but serve the needs of neighboring countries of southeastern Europe , why not of central Europe. Potentially even countries , such as Ukraine could be served from such an infrastructure.

So, this is a project that is not just an energy pipeline. It is a project that diversifies sources and routes. It is also a pipeline that connects European states sharing the same European values of solidarity and regional cooperation. I think it is a concrete expression of our determination to jointly respond to current and future challenges, and indeed they are incredibly significant. But also, to jointly promote the prosperity of our peoples.

And I was happy to hear the President of the Commission highlighting this need for stronger European cooperation in addressing what is an open blackmail by Russia, when it comes to the security of supply of energy to Europe.

And, of course, this is not just a problem related to the physical supply of gas. Ιt is also a problem related to the price of gas that European countries are paying. And we all know that we are currently imposing a heavy burden on our societies, on businesses, on households, in terms of the very high energy prices.

And we also all know that national budgets only have limited capacity in terms of absorbing these increases. That is why a European solution which I hope will be finalised during our next European meetings in Prague and Brussels is so important.

Dear Ursula, what we did with Covid we need to replicate it with gas. We need a unified European strategy, we need to avoid the fragmentation of the European energy market and we need to be certain that we place European solidarity above national interests. Greece will always stand ready to contribute towards this effort in which the European Commission has assumed a very important leading role.