Assistant Secretary Fannon: Thank you prime minister, for the time we shared earlier, your country’s warm hospitality and the opportunities that we have in tight partnership. The commitment that North Macedonia has shown to the NATO relationship is a testament to the commitment that we have coming forward and the broadening that represents. Let me also mention the European Union and the process that you are going through. Clearly you have steps where you are building North Macedonia to be a regional player, and the United States stands with you in all of these regards.
You mentioned the meetings in Thessaloniki, and I was delighted to participate with Secretary of State Pompeo as well as representatives from your government. I think what we will see here is really transformative. We see the evolution of a new energy market. Greece is in a way the headwaters of that, given the important infrastructure that it has. But as we go forward, it’s these connections that will make small countries, with relatively small demand, small markets, into a (inaudible) that can catalyze investment opportunities, that is transformative for the economic progress of each country, but also the region as a whole.
I had the opportunity to visit the development of the interconnector Greece-Bulgaria and the pipeline which is going to be bringing the gas through Bulgaria and other connections to North Macedonia. I was also very pleased to see your government taking interest in Alexandroupolis, which is transformative. Whenever we see options for energy, it has a broader effect in lowering prices, improving reliability and resilience, and helping consumers everywhere. North Macedonia has such considerable opportunity both in terms of the gas but also, as we discussed, renewable energy and integration.
Also the issue with the Hellenic Petroleum and OKTA, we look forward to those discussions evolving. I know the Greek side is committed to working in partnership on all of these areas, and we want to be supportive. I look forward to speaking to those officials as well.
I want to close my opening remarks with the recognition of the partnership, the commitment to the Alliance, as well as applauding you for your efforts in developing your country and doing it in a way that is based on fundamental principles of transparency and fairness.
Kanal 5 TV: I have a question for the Assistant Secretary. The support from the United States has already been announced, specifically with regard to the projects that the country should upgrade and complete, in particular with Greece. I am interested to hear what this will mean for the country but also the United States’ support for the region and the geostrategic interconnection of North Macedonia with Greece and certainly the gas line upgrade. What is the importance of the geopolitical aspect and do you have any estimates how much it will cost?
A/S Fannon: Thank you. The geopolitical implications are significant because currently the region has effectively one supplier and when any state is dependent on one supplier, it effects the way that state can operate and it effects their foreign policy and judgments related to that. So there is a geopolitical implication here that is significant.
The U.S. has a long-standing concern about this energy security, this dependency relationship and has sought for many years – since in fact the time of President Reagan – to promote the diversification of energy supplies, types and routes. In so doing it creates that option set and it really creates a market. You can’t have a market if there’s only one source of supply; it’s impossible. That’s not a market, that’s a dependency. The U.S. wants to see market creation and so that’s part of what’s transformative here, is that now we have new options. Of course, U.S. Gas is one of those significant options and we are very, very proud of that. U.S. just started exporting natural gas through LNG and [inaudible] in 2016. At that time we were the 15th biggest exporter of gas. Three years later we were the third largest exporter and we will soon be the first. This is transformative, it is creating greater liquidity and creating greater optionality to the global market.
But the U.S. isn’t the only source of supply. We have seen developments in the Eastern Mediterranean, we have seen Cyprus, we have seen Egypt, the whole area is dynamic; Greece is also the import opportunity there. By these connections we are creating a market that doesn’t exist, we are creating optionality and a broader halo effect. Also politically, when we have this market done in transparency, in fairness, it creates a broader halo effect that provides means of political stability. This is our long-standing focus.
North Macedonia, we mentioned Greece as becoming the headwaters here, North Macedonia by virtue of its geography is considered as the regional hub and the import of refined products can then create a distribution network to the region, create that degree of resiliency in market. That goes for transmission lines, that goes for natural gas as well. But it requires the political will to make this vision a reality. What we are seeking to do is to support that and bring, encourage U.S. investment. This is a real opportunity for North Macedonia and I am delighted to do so. Thank you.