When I tell those who might be interested in asking what I do for a living that I am the British Embassy’s Political Officer most people ask “so, do you think that we shall have an early election?” or “what do the British think of the latest polls?” So, they are surprised if they get a reply like “oh, I didn’t see the latest polls, because I was busy attending a conference on gas pipelines”.
Indeed, energy security has its obvious commercial and economic facets but also its equally important foreign policy aspects. It is indeed central to foreign policy and as such an area in which the Embassy in Athens is playing a very active role.
Greece belongs to SE Europe, a politically, economically and culturally diverse region which is, furthermore not easy to consider separately from other neighbouring regions, more homogeneous and distinct such as Russia or the Middle East. In this diverse region the Embassy is analysing energy sector developments, working to identify commercial opportunities for the UK and Greece and to combine energy security objectives to prosperity and environmental protection, particularly low carbon growth internationally.
So, to give but a few examples of our more recent activities, over the last month we have been busy engaging with key players in Greece, explaining our priorities and learning about their views, prospects and concerns. Jointly with colleagues from the Embassy’s Trade Development Section we attended a major Energy, Energy Security and Development conference held in Athens in November. In December, we followed that up with a lunchtime discussion hosted by the Ambassador where senior oil and gas companies representatives, national oil and gas transmission operators, academics and analysts shared their different perspectives on energy security in Greece and the wider area. This not only helped us to fill in our picture of developments, but gave us some new ideas for cooperation between Greek and British companies. We plan to hold another event, possibly a debate on different approaches to energy security early in 2012.
So, interesting as government changes, polls and elections may be, there is much more to political work at the Embassy than meets the untrained eye. Energy security policy is among our top priorities as is another, related area of work, Climate Change on which I hope to be writing more, early in 2012.