Remarks by Ambassador Pyatt: “The potential of the circular economy: Greece’s objectives and implementation process”
The Economist Thessaloniki Metropolitan Summit
Hotel Electra, Thessaloniki
September 10, 2021
Thank you very much for having me. Congratulations to The Economist for hosting this forum here in Thessaloniki, a city that in many ways has felt like my second home throughout my five years as an American Ambassador here.
It is a huge honor to be on the same stage as Minister Skrekas. The minister and I have just returned from a meeting with my three fellow US ambassadors to the region – the US ambassador to Bulgaria, North Macedonia and Albania. I was delighted that we were able to make it happen. I am especially happy to have my colleagues here in Thessaloniki today, as it really highlights something that has been a guiding principle for the United States’ engagement in northern Greece since 2018, when we have tried to put together the ingredients for the status of the United States as an honored country at the Thessaloniki International Fair. That is, looking at Thessaloniki and Northern Greece in a wider regional context and seeing this not only as the second city of the Hellenic Republic, but as the gateway to a market of 30 million people .
I am incredibly proud of the progress we have made since the Thessaloniki Fair in 2018 in building this regional vision. Once again, Minister Skrekas and his responsibilities in the areas of the environment and energy are absolutely at the center of it all.
I will talk a little more about energy issues this afternoon at another event, but I’m really happy to be able to focus on the environmental aspects now. I am particularly happy to do this with Panagiotis. Envipco was one of the American anchor attendees at the AmCham American Pavilion at the Thessaloniki Fair in 2018. In fact, if I remember correctly, Panagiotis, this is where you kicked off your brand partnership with Giannis Antetokounmpo well before Giannis was the greatest player in the NBA and a name that was known across the United States.
I was very proud earlier this week to welcome Connecticut Senator Chris Murphy to Athens and Souda Bay, and Connecticut is Envipco’s home state. So it all really comes together here.
I would like to point out that all of us who have lived in Greece and experienced both the extraordinary beauties that this country offers but also the traumas of recent months, the horrific fires in Athens, Evia and ancient Olympia, let’s understand that we are all getting a flashing red environmental light and behaviors need to change.
American companies are going to play a leading role in working with Greece and working here in northern Greece to leverage the wider region to achieve these goals. Envipco is a prime example. We have companies like Blink Charging in the field of electric vehicles. There is much more going on in northern Greece in these areas than people often realize. You have all the energy projects – the FSRU of Alexandroupoli, the connections with Bulgaria, the IGB which are so important. You have a large battery company called Sunlight, headquartered in East Macedonia, which plays an important role as a developer of battery technology and electricity storage.
West Macedonia will be at the heart of the White Dragon project that Minister Skrekas’ ministry has pushed forward. I am very proud that an American company, Advent Technologies, headquartered in Patras, a leader in hydrogen fuel cell technology, is participating in this White Dragon project.
So we see that this is an area that plays both on the very ambitious climate agenda that Prime Minister Mitsotakis has defined. And I want to stress how important it is to the United States government that Prime Minister Mitsotakis has set the bar so high to phase out lignite and work together to protect the environment, but also how important businesses are. Americans are enthusiastic with their advanced technology participating in this process, participating in this process in northern Greece and leveraging the presence here in northern Greece to penetrate other markets like Bulgaria, North Macedonia , Serbia, Albania.
The last point I will make on the cleantech side, we were discussing earlier with the minister about the essential role that gas will play as a transitional fuel in this process. I am very proud that American companies, and in particular General Electric with its super efficient gas turbines, are a big part of this story. You have a state-of-the-art turbine that is installed at Agios Nikolaos in the Mytilineos factory there. And I told Mr. Copelouzos that I will not sleep until we have signed the contract also for the Copelouzos power plant in Alexandroupoli linked to the FSRU which will also be GE’s own technology.
So we see fantastic opportunities here. We have seen a real transformation in Thessaloniki’s reputation as a hotbed of American technology companies. I walked past the new Cisco Center this morning. We have the fantastic example of the Pfizer High Technology Center which has grown beyond all expectations here in Greece.
There’s a lot going on, but more will happen in the future.
Moderator: [On climate change] You were talking about fairly long-term things that you have been working on for some time in the past that involve involvement and commitment in the future. Do you have any concerns about the continued engagement of the United States in the region?
Ambassador Pyatt: Not at all. Even during the period when the United States was outside the Paris Agreement, our companies continued to innovate. We have continued to reduce our carbon production.
I am from California which has two important roles. First, it is a state like Greece that places a strong emphasis on the quality of the environment. It is also a state, because it is the fifth or sixth economy in the world that actually has the capacity to set the standards on its own in our federal system, which then spill over to the United States and the United States. rest of the world. California has acted very aggressively on the energy transition, very aggressively on the deployment of wind and solar power, and frankly, this is a perfect match for Greece because we have a very similar geography, we have a very similar climate, and we also face the same imperative to protect our climate.
For me, it was so poignant that just as I looked through the smoke-filled sky of Athens, I was also reading the stories from my home in California where we literally have the biggest fires that my state has ever had. origin has ever been faced, driven by exactly the same extreme weather events that are a consequence of man-made climate change.
Moderator: Thank you. It’s amazing, isn’t it, that the world, the climate and the globe, the planet we live on, seem to be doing their best to underline the messages he sends us?
Ambassador Pyatt: It’s a flashing red light. And as I read, a colleague from New York Times, captured it very well when he wrote that Evia was the world capital of the consequences of climate change for our lives and the world in which we live. It was the prime example of the urgency to think differently about these questions.
Once again, I cannot stress enough the importance of the standard set by Prime Minister Mitsotakis as a model for many other countries in Europe that are making slower progress towards phasing out lignite, and also in terms of some something Minister Skrekas works on every day, putting in place the regulations and market environment that encourage companies to innovate and bring new technologies.
As I said, just look at the examples of Mytilineos or Sunlight to see how Greek companies are realizing this opportunity and developing their own technological expertise. Advent, headquartered in Boston, Greek headquarters in Patras, expanding to Athens, is a perfect example of this synergy between our two economies.
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