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U.S. Secretary Pompeo and Greek Foreign Minister Nikolaos Dendias renew defence agreement

Athens, Greece (PortSEurope) October 5, 2019 – During a two–day visit to Greece, which ended Sunday, U.S. Secretary of State Michael Pompeo and Greek Foreign Minister Nikolaos Dendias signed a renewed Mutual Cooperation Defense Agreement (MDCA), first signed in 1990, and since 1998, renewed annually.

The Eastern Mediterranean and Aegean Seas are key to U.S. interests in Southeastern Europe, the Middle East, Northern Africa and the Black Sea, and Washington faces increased regional security challenges Russia, China and Iran. One consequence of the signing is that the proposed privatisation of Alexandroupolis port could be put on hold.

During a press conference between the two men, the following comments were noted.

The Greek minister said that the agreement was tangible proof that he two countries are committed to a partnership and cooperation spans a huge range of issues, including regional issues, defense, but also the economy, commerce, trade, investment projects, combating terror, relations between our societies and communities, and energy issues. Energy is key, with Greece interested in diversification of energy sources, diversification of energy routes.

Pompeo replied that the agreement demonstrated a shared commitment to democracy, and will help Greece grow as a partner for strategic stability in Europe, and throughout the Eastern Mediterranean.

On the topic of Greece’s economic growth, Pompeo raised Washington’s concerns about Chinese investments in Greek technology and infrastructure, and encouraged Greece’s leaders to see that American businesses operate with the highest levels of transparency and respect for law.

Commenting on the implications of the renewed agreement, Greek Foreign Minister Dendias said that there were three facets to the agreement.

Firstly, the agreement benefits Greece because it enhances the American imprint in Greece, which he claims is a positive imprint. Secondly, he believes it will lead to a transfer of know-how from the U.S. to Greece, and for the benefit of the armed forces of Greece.

Thirdly, the agreement will favour economic activity in Greece at a time when the country is exiting an economic crisis. Whilst catering to U.S. needs, it will still help consolidate Greece as a pillar of stability and peace within the wider region.

Regarding Alexandroupolis port, Washington sees it as a key factor, a port which is linked to regional energy development – the Trans Adriatic Pipeline (TAP), Gas Interconnector Greece-Bulgaria (IGB) and the Alexandroupolis LNG facility, which could become an entry point for U.S. liquified natural gas (LNG) into Europe – and the U.S. supports these projects.

The port also has a potential key political role – a port the U.S. sees as an alternative to the Bosporus Straits that connect the Black Sea to the Mediterranean. Washington would like to be involved in any expansion programme at the port and develop its local influence, as well as attempting to exclude any roles for Russia and China. Washington is likely to seek local port infrastructure for some of its miitary forces.

Moscow’s interest is to expand its influence in the Balkan countries and resist efforts by the western countries to develop alternative gas supplies, reducing their dependence on Russia.

China has invested huge sums of money to acquire assets and rights of transport assets in the Mediterranean Sea, mainly ports, as it seeks to secure access routes for Chinese products in European markets. Chinese companies would be keen to have a role in any port expansion.

Thus, to achieve its aims, Washington would be keen to see an Alexandroupolis port privatisation put on hold until it can influence the outcome.

A more detailed PortSEurope article can be accessed here.

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