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"Welcome to the Board members
It is a great pleasure for HELPE Group and myself to host here in Athens this off-site Board meeting; a Board meeting that happens to have such a crucial agenda, aiming to focus on strategic questions for the Future of our sector.
We recognize the role and the achievements of the European Refiners’ Association and its 2 branches, FuelsEurope & Concawe.
We consider it really important that HELPE Group, -consistently through the years-, not only follows the European and international developments, but actively participates in forming positions and proposals for the Refining sector, through the very important work of the Association. The high level of representation within this room is the proof of the Association’s important role in representing us all, advocating with a unified and strong voice in Brussels, where decisions influencing our future are taken.
There is no doubt that our sector, after a period of long and deep crisis, is now standing in front of arguably the biggest challenge in its history, facing an uncertain future, having more questions than answers.
Apart from facing the broad challenges of European Refining, our Group also had to confront the enormous impact of a prolonged, deep economic crisis in Greece, which resulted in a 40%+ drop in domestic petroleum products demand and imposed major structural changes.
However, within this very challenging environment, HELPE Group managed to adapt and not only continue the operation of the 3 refineries and improve its competitiveness and performance, but also proceed with major investments of the order of €3 billion, the bulk of which in refinery upgrades.
Nowadays, HELPE is one of the major contributors in the country’s economy and beyond, representing approximately 20% of Greek exports, employing over 3,300 employees in 6 countries, investing in the development of its people, supporting local communities, contributing in many ways to our Economy and Society.
All this happens while competitiveness of European refining is strongly challenged in many ways. We consider that FuelsEurope’s role in the discussion that has emerged in the last few years within the European institutions has been very important. Our joint efforts must continue in order to demonstrate the sector’s reality as described by facts, technical data and real costs. FuelsEurope and all of us, members of this Association, should put public discussion on a realistic and pragmatic basis, so that Policy makers are able to see the real picture and that their decisions are made recognizing the impact not only to our sector but to the European Economy and Society as a whole.
Within this frame of unrelenting international competition and with European refining bearing additional regulatory and legislative burden, let me highlight that refining in countries like Greece (and the whole Mediterranean region), has to survive within a much harsher environment. Our competitors are not the European refineries of Northern or Central Europe, but the refineries of regions such as Turkey, Middle East etc. which face little or no compliance burden. Being located at the edge of Europe, our trade intensity is up to 60% compared to the average of 15% for European refining, a number that clearly shows the additional burden that some of the European refineries face.
Even though this is our tough everyday reality, today, in this meeting, as I understand you are here to discuss about the future. About our future within a challenging and changing world. A future that already has its new themes, such as Low Carbon Emissions, Decarbonization, Electrification of Transport and you are here to identify the risks, the challenges or even the opportunities.
The Decarbonization trend will affect us decisively, especially Transport, that has been a privileged area for liquid fuels and our industry so far. Today, one thing is certain: we cannot ignore this trend and wait to respond only reactively.
My colleagues participating in the Association have briefed me about some very interesting aspects of the discussion you are going to have today, such as the “Economy wide/cross sectoral approach to decarbonization”, an approach that seems to be more cost effective, more fair to the economy and society and much better aligned with the COP21 goals. However, such new concepts and proposals need time and effort to mature and be accepted by all stakeholders.
I am sure that today’s board meeting will be one of the most thought-provoking meetings you had so far. Since I will not be here with you in this room, I am really looking forward to being informed about the outcome of this meeting."