Greek oil company aims to invest in Serbia and Romania

The Hellenic Petroleum Company is planning to invest heavily in the Balkans over the coming years according to its press releases and numerous media reports. Already it has invested commercially and industrially in Bulgaria, FYROM, Albania and Montenegro. The last two projects were heavily influenced by political developments and in Albania’s case, the whole investment basically faltered due to domestic opposition.

The main markets on which any plans are going to be unfolded, is the Serbian mostly and the Romanian markets.

For the former, the main aim is to acquire – Jointly with the Austrian OMV- the Serbian petroleum company, Nafta Industrial Serbia-NIS-. The ongoing privatization process of this enterprise has been postponed many times in the past due to the competing international interests and multinational corporations such as Lukoil, Shell, Total and others. The Serbian goverment is very careful in adressing this privatization especially during a period of increased pressure due to the Kosovo negotiation process.

The Greeks are interested for either the commercial or production sectors of NIS and will use Serbia as a gateaway to the Central European markets. To that one must note around the ongoing plans for a Thessaloniki-Belgrade pipeline that will either natural gas or oil coming from the North Afria and Middle East areas.

Furthermore the planning of the Kostanja-Trieste pipeline transfering Russian oil from the Black Sea to European markets; further increases the Serbian geoeconomic role and it is a major investment motive for any company related to energy. The Russian company Lukoil that already exercises considerable influence in the Serbian market, will of course be the main competitor to the Greek oil company. As far as for the Western interests, it seems unlikely that the stance of their goverments as fas as the Kosovo issue is concerned, would allow them enough space for any further advancement in Serbian energy politics.

Romania now, is a country eyed by the Greeks because of its abundance of oil refinery units and its potential crucial role in the transfer of Russian oil. Moreover the size of the state -23 million people- is a positive factor for the future commercial success of retail investments there. It is important to state, that according to many, both Serbia and Romania are interelated in the emerging landscape of energy politics in the Southeastern European region, and potential investment destinations. Their proximity and good relations with Russia and most importantly their combination of strategic value in relation to the axis running from the Black Sea to the Adriatic and from Central Europe to the Mediterranean, are perceived as great “points” by interested parties.

One of the most important developments nowadays is the creation of new “Energy routes” and it is probable to view a very tense competition in the Balkans over the coming years, because of that factor. The Greek oil company which is a middle-sized one in comparizon with the international standards, will be investing a great share of its capital, thus creating a first step in bonding Balkans together in an energy level at least. If someone takes into account similar culminations in the stock-market , the tourism and industrial sectors; then an emerging picture of a combined Serbia, Romania, Bulgarian, Greek and Cypriot economic force, becomes visible.

Lastly along the aforementioned countries Austria and Ukraine should also be mentioned, the first as a collaborating investment partner and the second as an attractive “Investors paradise” to-be-found.

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