October 22, 2013
A Developing Energy Hub and a New Partnership Between Israel, Cyprus, and Greece
Dr. Seth Cropsey, Senior Fellow, Hudson Institute
The Honorable Brad Schneider (D-IL), United States House of Representatives
H.E. Christos Panagopoulos, Ambassador to the United States, Government of Greece
H.E. George Chacalli, Ambassador to the United States, Government of Cyprus
Eli Groner, Israeli Minister for Economic Affairs to the United States, Government of Israel
On October 22 the Hudson Institute invited a distinguished group of policymakers to discuss developing relations in the Eastern Mediterranean among Israel, Cyprus, and Greece. The recent approval of the Trans-Adriatic Pipeline and discovery of large hydrocarbon reserves off the coast of Israel and Cyprus have potential to generate economic wealth, energy security, and enhanced diplomatic ties among the three countries.
Amb.Chacalli began by outlining Cyprus’ hopes and ambitions for the new strategic partnership with Greece and Israel. The Ambassador’s hope is that energy developments in the Eastern Mediterranean can provide new and more stable sources of energy that enrich Western style democracies, rather than relying on unstable and oppressive Eastern governments. Cyprus has already begun issuing licenses to international energy companies, such as Italy’s Eni and France’s Total, and plans to build an LNG plant on the coast of Basillicos so as to make exporting energy easier. These plans to forge unity through energy development will be accompanied by the construction of the EuroAsia Interconnector, which would link Israel to the Pan-European electricity grid by going through Cyprus and Greece. The hope of Amb.Chacalli is that these developing ties will not just be limited to energy development. It is his hope that the countries can work together and build basic trust and cooperation, through trade and investment, increased intelligence sharing, and coordinated maritime efforts to limit illegal immigration and smuggling through the Mediterranean.
Amb.Panagopoulos also hopes the new partnership will enforce confidence in the larger regions of Eastern Europe and the Middle East. The Ambassador warned though that surge of illegal immigrants and refugees, fleeing the instability in Egypt, Syria, and the wider MENA region, threaten the East Mediterranean’s stability and make a firm partnership between the area’s only Western democracies even more important. Greece plans to begin further exploratory drilling by 2015 and conduct additional surveys to identify drilling areas. The Ambassador indicated that the government-to-government talks that occurred earlier in October, headed by Prime Ministers Samaras and Netanyahu, signaled increased cooperation between the two countries in a variety of different sectors. The proposed energy partnership between the three countries will not only strengthen their own economic and energy securities but also provide the EU with cheaper, more environmentally friendly sources of energy while also diversifying Europe’s energy supply- an issue that is very important to the U.S.
Mr.Groner further expanded on the U.S.’ interests and usefulness in further developing the strategic partnership. The earlier advice from both the U.S. government and corporations had, according to Mr.Groner, proved extremely helpful. U.S. based intelligence has provided advice to Israel, Cyprus, and Greece in figuring out proper amounts of gas to export and deciding how much should be kept for domestic consumption. Mr.Groner believes that, through U.S. assistance, Israel will be able to tap into successful Western trade markets while also developing long-term energy security and independence. Mr.Groner reiterated an earlier sentiment that the developing gas arrangements and the EuroAsia Interconnector were not just benefitting Israel but also strengthening the economies and energy security of Cyprus, Greece, and the EU. These projects are not simple zero-sum games but have potential to effect larger surrounding regions and the globe.
Congressman Schneider further underlined what an important “game-changer” the proposed energy and strategic partnerships were. Not only would the proposed joint energy field provide 2,000 megawatts to the three countries and the EU, thus lowering energy costs, but it would also serve as a beacon of hope and possibility for the increasingly divided and unstable governments in the Middle East. As the partnership among Israel, Cyprus, and Greece develops and expands past energy development, into sectors such as intelligence gathering and sharing, immigration management, and economic investment, the Congressman that it will become an “arch of stability” – a sign of what is possible through cooperation and shared interests. It was reiterated that this partnership has the capacity to not only strengthen the three host countries but also the regions that they inhabit. If enacted properly the partnership of Israel, Cyprus, and Greece will not only impact energy development but also have larger political, economic, and diplomatic impacts, which strengthen and better the world.