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Thursday, February 15, 2018

"Through Greece: A Path To European Energy Security" - Op-Ed By Dean Plassaras

Op-ed by a reader/contributor to this blog, Dean Plassaras, a Greek-American entrepreneur living in California.


As we are all observing Greece looking for factors that might make a difference, I wish to bring to your and blog readers' attention 3 energy projects with promising potential. They are:

EuroAsia Submarine Interconnector Cable: The EuroAsia Interconnector is a leading European Union Project of Common Interest (PCI) that will link the electricity grids of Israel, Cyprus and Greece (Crete-Attica) through a 2,000MW sub-sea cable and converter stations at each connection point. The total budget of Stage 1 of the project for the initial 1000MW interconnector is estimated at 3.5 billion euros.

EuroAfrica Submarine Interconnector Cable: EuroAfrica will link the electrical systems of Egypt, Cyprus and Greece (via Crete) through sub-marine DC cables and HVDC onshore stations in each country/location, and have a capacity of 2000 MW. The EuroAfrica creates an energy bridge between Africa and Europe with a total length of the interconnector being approx. 1648 km, and creates a reliable alternative corridor for transferring electricity to Europe.

East Med Gas Pipeline Project: The Eastern Mediterranean (EastMed) pipeline project relates to an offshore/onshore natural gas pipeline, directly connecting East Mediterranean resources to Greece via Cyprus and Crete that could: i) enhance Europe's gas security of supply via diversification of counterparts, routes and sources; ii) develop EU indigenous resources such as the offshore gas reserves around Cyprus and Greece; and iii) promote the development of a South Mediterranean Gas Hub.

Mindful of the well known "resource curse" or the "paradox of plenty", I am not so much interested in suggesting that hydrocarbon discoveries could solve the problems of Greece. Rather, I wish to focus our attention on the interconnectivity issue and energy performance improvements delivered by such systems.

Of utmost importance and leading the pack is the EuroAsia submarine electric cable with a parallel fiber-optics cable component. Cheap electricity, whether produced by gas-fired plants or solar installations, could cut current electric costs by half and end the energy isolation of the Greek islands which currently produce electricity on demand through burning of dirty and expensive mazout (heavy petroleum) which needs to be imported (we both agree that Greece needs to cut its imports and increase its exports).

The EuroAsia interconnector has now reached its implementation phase and I hope it becomes the proverbial "win-win" for better Greek economic results and greater EU energy security.

Regrettably, this topic is not sufficiently covered and on the rare occasions it is, perhaps not sufficiently explained.

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Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Kristina Tremonti - Fighting Corruption in Greece!

I came across Kristina Tremonti through this article in Der Spiegel (the article is in German but the video at the beginning is in English). Here is another video about her fight against Greek corruption. And here is an English article from The Guardian.

Tremonti was born in Vail, Colorada, as daughter of an Italian father and a Greek mother. At age 2, she moved to Greece with her mother and at age 16 she returned to the US for studies, and she later received a degree from Yale University. At age 23, she left a well-paid job in NYC to return to Greece to make a contribution to her mother's home country. She is now 27.

After having had to pay a bribe ("fakelaki") to get her grandfather a cancer operation in a Greek hospital, Tremonti chose corruption as the field of her activity. She established the platfrom www.edosafakelaki.orghttp://www.edosafakelaki.org/.

I have browsed her activities in the internet a bit and everything sounds really quite impressive!

Meritocracy And Greece

This paragraph says it all:

"We need meritocratic decision-making in Greece, be it by left- or right-wing governments, and both in the public and private sectors. More than debt relief, Greece needs meritocracy. This is not something that we can translate into a specific prior action. This is not something that you can order from the Eurogroup. This is something about a political and governance culture of responsibility and a mentality that needs to continue to be developed. Many Greeks have suffered during the economic crisis. The price they paid should not be for nothing."

It comes from an article written by the Dutch Ambassador to Greece and published in the Ekathimerini. The Greek nationalists will probably consider this article as a display of arrogance by a foreigner. Particularly the following sentence from the article will trigger their ire: "The country needs to keep working on the structural challenges of its economy. Greece needs to aim for its economy to converge to a European standard." The Greek nationalists will cry out that the premise of Greece having to adjust to the European standard is totally false. On the contrary, it is the other way around: the rest of Europe should adjust to the great wisdoms which had their origin in Greece.

My reaction? This should not be viewed as an either-or proposition. Instead, it should be viewed as an as-well-as proposition. 

Monday, February 12, 2018

Does Germany Abandon Itself?

I was not aware that the coalition agreement of the (expected) new German government was so pro-European (see this article). The pro-Europeans, like the French, will like that. The Schäuble-supporters will despise it for reasons which the author explains in the article. In any event, if all of this comes through, it will take winds out of the sails of those who always blame Germany for wanting to dominate Europe on its own terms and with only its interests in mind.

"It is not only legitimate, but also the duty of French President Emmanuel Macron to pursue French interests and see to it that the French economic model prevails in Europe. What is to be deplored is that the German government is evidently abandoning the formulation and pursuit of German interests. That is not only politically stupid, but will actually also deepen the crisis of the European Union. Especially in the face of Brexit, the logical goal of German policymaking in Europe should be to counter French central planning with Germany’s well-proven, market-liberal policies in the tradition of Ludwig Erhard. To keep Europe prosperous and united, competition in the Single Market needs to be strengthened and the operations of the ECB refocused on the provision of sound money."

Friday, February 9, 2018

Greece Through Irish Eyes

In this article, a xenos describes a book which he has written about Greece. Aptly, he calls the book "Greece through Irish eyes". After reading the article, I believe I will buy this book. Here are my favorite paragraphs:

"One would have to be an imbecile or a politician to love Greece without realizing how grievously it suffers as much from self-abuse as from the cruelties of others. So we tolerate the imperfections amid which we live our lives."

"What is there to love about Greece? For me, the unchangeable keywords are: 'filotimia,' 'oikogenia,' 'estia,' 'oikonomia' and above all 'eleftheria.' These constitute 'Greekness' – 'ellenikotita.'"

And particularly this one:

"A Westerner, trained in linear thinking, will be exasperated by the difficulty in making connections between cause and effect. Quite often, what I see does not correspond to what I would call 'reality.' The West still does not understand Greece, because it insists that Greece belongs to them, when in fact it is a pivotal joint between East and West."

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

The Miraculous Greek Merchant Fleet!

This article from the Ekathimerini reports what most people assume to be a fact, anyway. Namely, that Greek shipowners are the Number One in the world's merchant fleet. Specifically:

* over 4.500 ships are valued at 100 BEUR
* Japan ranks in second place with 89 BEUR
* China ranks third with 84 BEUR

I have said this in a previous posting: The fact that entrepreneurs from a relatively small country of 11 million people, a country which really doesn't have a track record of successful economic and/or business performance, would reach such a position is quite mind-boggling to me. True, Greece - surrounded by water - has a history of seafaring but so have other countries. Spain or Portugal have similar histories and the UK used to rule the waves. And, by the way, where are the Americans?

What puzzles me about Greek shipowners is the following: they obviously know what it takes to be successful and they obviously understand why their country is not successful. They must see that every day. Why in the world do they not take a role in making their country successful???

Thursday, February 1, 2018

Manufacturing Expected On The Rise!

This is one of the most important graphs about trends in the Greek economy: the index reflecting the expectations of purchasing managers in Greece's manufacturing sector ("Manufacturing PMI"):


The light blue field in the background represents GDP. In 2010, when Greece's GDP first collapsed, the PMI exaggerated that collapse. The same phenomenon occurred during the drama times of 2015-16 but then the PMI's exaggeration was much greater than before.

The point, however, is this: for quite some time now, the PMI is rising. Rising significantly above GDP growth. There is no other way than to interpret this as a very positive sign for the near future of the Greek economy!