East Med pipeline and the international community

Today, energy is one of the most important human goods and many times, from many sides, it is considered a given. The rise of societal dependence on energy led to a new energy geopolitical trend. However, it is not enough for the economy of one state to determine its relationship with the buying and selling of energy, but an even more important role is played by the policy of each state. Energy, apart from covering the needs of each state, is now a point of strategy and political pressure. Targeting energy, many alliances and synergies (political, economic) have formed for the best coverage and supply.

Thus, Europe quickly formed its own energy policy based on two pylons: On the one hand, the operation of the internal energy market and on the other hand, the security of energy supply. Today, Europe is all the more dependent on Russia, which is why it seeks other ways/routes to receive energy and cover its constantly rising needs. One of these ways is to promote a Mediterranean policy, since the Mediterranean is an important crossroads and a powerful energy route. More specifically, the EuroMed Partnership has been formed, initially because of its geographic position, but also because of the significant energy deposits held by many Mediterranean countries, in contrast to European ones. In energy, Mediterranean countries maintain an important position and this is because they are neighbouring countries to the EU (apart from the already European Mediterranean states) and cooperate with them. Also, they are importers of energy, but they also have the responsibility of securing the supply routes in the region.

East Med pipeline

As we know, energy brought a new interest in the political relations of the international community. And very quickly, states developed their own energy policy by forming cooperation and economic relations. They moved to commerce and energy supply primarily through the construction of necessary energy pipelines, which hold an important role in the geostrategic policy of countries in the energy political landscape of the global community.

Lately, with recent discoveries of energy reserves, a new breeze was given to the importance of Mediterranean space both in energy and security, as well as the political antagonisms of international “players”. Europe and primarily Greece, Cyprus and Israel, took responsibility and made the decision to create the EastMed pipeline, in an effort to advance their cooperation and their position in the energy politics canvas. This pipeline, will begin in Israel, will follow a route to Cyprus and then to Crete and continental Greece, where it will connect to Otranto, Italy and will supply the rest of Europe.

After the recent discoveries in fields inside blocks of Israel and Cyprus (Leviathan and Aphrodite-Calypso correspondingly), Europe reserved a large sum (to reach 100 million Euros) for the necessary preparations and studies of the project. Their results appear to be positive and consider EastMed as viable. This does not mean, of course, that the project does not face many challenges, leading to worry about its realization schedule. Initially, the EastMed project annoyed Russia, but primarily Turkey, which increased its provocations in the Eastern Mediterranean. It sends Turkish ships in Cyrpus’s marine blocks for its own exploration and drilling, defying the notifications and sanctions of Europe. Furthermore, another challenge faced by EastMed’s project are its own implementation plans. This is because the Mediterranean Sea is deep and has an anomalous geomorphology, which creates uncertainty in the installation and operation of necessary materials.

East Med is included in the PCI list of the EU (Projects of Common Interest). Of course, Europe does not rest just on the idea of this pipeline, but also seeks other individual solutions and routes for its energy supply and the covering of its needs. It appears that the realization of the pipeline is a long term project, considering the geopolitical antagonisms. One solution that is being studied is to use Egypt’s LNG plants or build a new one in Cyprus. It is a move that will enhance the role of these two nations.

It is noteworthy that at the beginning of the year (January 2019) the EastMed Gas Forum (EGF) organization was formed in Cairo (its headquarters). Its purpose is the creation of a peripheral gas market, the drop of infrastructure cost and the offering of competitive prices. During EGF’s formation, the energy ministers of Cyprus, Greece, Israel and Egypt took part, as well as representatives from Italy, Jordan and Palaistine. Turkey did not participate, being displeased about it. This forum will also help create a smooth and successful corporate relationship between gas producers and gas consumers.

Indeed, during the last few days (July 24-25, 2019), the new energy minister, Mr. Chatzidakis, travelled to Cairo in order to participate in EGF’s second conference. Other participants include the energy ministers of Cyprus, Israel, Jordan, Palaistine and the US, undersecretary of energy of Italy, as well as representatives from the EU, France and the World Bank. During this second conference there will be talks about advancing peripheral cooperation, organizing the forum, as well as studies made by international organizations for optimizing the methods of extracting current and potential gas quantities in the SE Mediterranean basin. Furthermore, in EGF’s conference, Mr. Chatzidakis has scheduled bilateral talks with the energy ministers of the US, Egypt and Israel about Greece’s energy relations.

After the two day EastMed Gas Forum, all parties agreed to turn the forum into an international organization in SE Europe. They also moved with the formation of a Business Council, which is responsible for carrying out EGF’s works. They also created a consultation committee along with the gas sector and the participation of public and private enterprise. Last, the first study was approved on behalf of the EGF in cooperation with the World Bank about the region’s gas potential and its better exploitation and export.

International reactions. Which global players lose and who wins?

Greece

Of course, Greece sees in the East Med project a great chance of playing an important role in the energy landscape. This pipeline will turn it into an energy power and will enhance its position both in the Mediterranean Basin, as well as in Europe. Moreover, Greece attains a strong presence in the Mediterranean, forming strong alliances with other Mediterranean states (Cyprus, Israel and even Egypt), providing a resounding answer to Turkey’s provocations. With EastMed, Greece is estimated to acquire an active role in the Mediterranean in energy and security. For now, of course, we cannot say it has reached this position, at least until there is a concrete framework and the pipeline gets the green light.

Israel

Israel heavily invests on the EastMed pipeline. This, of course, is due to the fact that through the pipeline, Israel acquires an immediate and strong connection to Europe. This automatically means that Israel’s position in the Mediterranean is enhanced, both in energy and security, while relations with Europe are strengthened. Israel (with the Leviathan field) will have the opportunity to extract gas, both to cover its own needs and to export to Europe. The only negative element is that the operation of this pipeline suggests cooperation and dependence on an Arab nation, such as Egypt, no matter how friendly. It is a collaboration whose development holds great interest when it comes to the two countries’ approach. Of course, the important thing is political will to create a cooperative relationship.

Egypt

Egypt, during the last few years, has set the goal of strengthening its position on the Mediterranean energy map. Of course, even though there are no official reactions, we can certainly say that on the one hand, it benefits from East Med, but on the other hand will have certain concerns, since there are issues of competitiveness. This is because Egypt promotes and significantly depends on the operation of its two liquefied natural gas plants in Idku and Damietta correspondingly. Furthermore, as was mentioned before, Egypt (as an Arab country) has to face the prospect of depending on Israel. What is certain is that Egypt will benefit much more, since it is the cheapest route for transferring gas.

Cyprus

Lately, discoveries in the marine blocks of Cyprus (Aphrodite, Calypso and Glaucus as estimated) provide Cyprus with the opportunity to become a significant energy force in the Eastern Mediteranean political landscape. Cyprus seeks to improve its economy through EastMed, to cover its internal needs and to advance gas exports. Moreover, Cyprus enhances its position in the Mediterranean Basin through EastMed and provides an answer to Turkey’s continuing provocations. However, EastMed’s project is anything but easy, as it needs stability and security in the region, which is not true in the case of Cyprus when it comes to its conflict with Turkey and its internal division (between Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots). This will lead to the delay of realizing the pipeline and the need to find a route in order not to trespass on Turkey’s marine borders. EastMed, as it appears, heightened geopolitical issues in the region instead of bringing all sides together for a common solution.

Of course, it should be mentioned that no matter how much the pipeline’s realization is delayed, Cyprus has another chance to play an important role in energy since there are plans to build an LNG plant on the island.

Turkey

Turkey regards energy cooperation between Greece-Cyprus-Israel (and Egypt) as negative when it comes to EastMed. Turkey has realized its isolation from European energy plans and does its best (despite European reactions and sanctions) to acquire a share in the Mediterranean energy field. Turkey is dependent (at 70%) on Russia’s and Iran’s energy supplies. Watching its own energy needs rising, it seeks a new cheap route of supply. It knows well that its efforts are affected by negative relations with all parts of this new project. Turkey does what it can to maintain a strong presence in the Mediterranean as an energy force and to acquire benefits from recent discoveries in the Eastern Mediterranean. Thus, knowing the need for stability and security for realizing the project, it enhances its presence with continuous provocations, by sending ships for its own exploration and drilling, destabilizing the region.

Russia-Europe-USA

Russia is definitely against EastMed, since it is a rival energy player. Russia supplies the greatest part of Europe’s energy needs through its own cheap natural gas, which is something that European powers want to avert by fracturing this relationship of dependence. Europe has provided a large sum for the pipeline’s planning and studies, a positive fact for energy deposits and EastMed’s viability. Moreover, Europe wants to avoid Turkey’s participation, since already existing pipelines already traverse its ground. They want to find an alternative route of cheap supply in order to avoid being dependent on the Turkish route.

On behalf of the US, we also have willingness to support the building of EastMed. This is because for the US, the pipeline means a direct and concrete connection of Israel to Europe, but also the weakening of Russia’s energy role in European territory. This US position was enhanced by foreign secretary, Mike Pompeo’s participation in the trilateral meeting of Greece, Cyprus and Israel last March in Jerusalem. This move was a sound answer particularly to Turkey and its provocations. It should be noted that lately, the US and Turkey do not have the best relations, especially after Turkey’s decisions on the issue of the Russian S-400 missiles.

General view

The importance of energy in international and especially Mediterranean geopolitics is evident. Through new reactions brought by the EastMed project, a new dynamic is given to countries of the Mediterranean Basin and geopolitics of the region in regards to cooperation, energy and security were advanced.

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