The construction of the EastMed gas pipeline becomes topical again
ZAGREB, June 27, 2022 – The European Union is trying to reduce its gas imports from Russia, and thus the subject of the construction of the 1,900 kilometer Eastern Mediterranean (EastMed) natural gas pipeline to connect the reserves of gas off Israel and Cyprus via Greece and Italy to other EU members is again on the agenda.
Geologist Avraam Zelilidis, a professor at the University of Patras and one of the supporters of this project, recently told Hina that this project could save the Greeks because the continued rise in fuel prices could plunge many citizens into extreme poverty.
By comparison, Greek companies are the most exposed in the EU to losses and bankruptcies due to the energy crisis, shows an analysis by the European Investment Bank (EIB). In Greece, EIB analysis predicts a 27.6% increase in the share of companies declaring losses.
Professor Zelilidis told Hina that in his opinion, large reserves of natural gas and oil are also found offshore Greece.
However, so far the Greek authorities have appeared reluctant to the project. During the first stage of the EastMed project, the EU could thus cover 10% of its energy needs.
The reasons for the reluctance appear to be opposition from Greek shipping companies who are currently making a profit on transporting imported oil supplies. In addition, there are certain environmental fears.
However, Xenia Loizidou, director of Isotech Ltd. Research and Consultancy, headquartered in Nicosia, told Hina that every gas pipeline poses a risk to the marine environment, but in this case the problem is no longer environmental but political.
Professor Zelilidis says that at later stages this pipeline could meet 40% of the EU’s gas supply needs.
The idea of the EastMed project was supported by the European Commission nine years ago under the name Project of Common Interest (PCI).
In 2019, Greece, Cyprus and Israel signed a Tel Aviv agreement on the matter.
The project is being developed by IGI Poseidon, a 50/50 joint venture between the Public Gas Corporation of Greece (DEPA) and Italy’s Edison International Holding.
In 2020, Italy confirmed its interest in having a branch of the gas pipeline pass through its territory.
However, there has been some Turkish opposition to the project as Ankara complains that the chosen pipeline route bypasses Turkey’s long coast to bring gas from the eastern Mediterranean to Europe. Turkey also alleges that the pipeline project violates its equal rights to natural resources in Cypriot territorial waters.
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has made all roads that can reduce dependence on Russian fossil fuels relevant again.
New geopolitical and energy market reality
In light of the new geopolitical and energy market reality, on 15 June in Cairo, European Commissioner for Energy Kadri Simson, together with the competent Egyptian and Israeli ministers signed a trilateral memorandum of understanding between the EU, Egypt and Israel for the export of gas to Europe.
During her participation in the summit meeting of the Three Seas Initiative in Riga, Commissioner Simson noted that the original EastMed project could be modified, and in this context she mentioned the Aphrodite gas field, the first gas field to be discovered and licensed for production in the Eastern Mediterranean, off the coast of Cyprus.
It is possible that the Aphrodite gas field, after commissioning, will be connected to Egypt and LNG supplies will then be transported to Europe, Simson said in Riga, noting that the construction of the pipeline could take more time.
Croatia and Cyprus can contribute to Europe’s energy independence
During his visit to Cyprus in mid-May, Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovič met with President Nicos Anastasiades, who said Cyprus could help the European Union achieve energy independence. Plenković pointed out that the LNG terminal on the island of Krk will play an important role in this regard.
The two officials discussed the energy crisis following the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
Anastasiades spoke about energy interconnection projects in the Eastern Mediterranean, between North Africa and Europe, and the EastMed gas pipeline which should link Cyprus to Europe via Greece.
The island state has discovered large offshore gas deposits in recent years, and the proposed project is still being analyzed to test its economic feasibility, Anastasiades said.
This can contribute to Europe’s energy diversification, he told a press conference.
Addressing the press conference in Nicosia, Plenković stressed that the LNG terminal on the island of Krk will play an important role in achieving Europe’s energy security. We are currently thinking about increasing its capacity and not only for Croatia but for the needs of the countries of Central Europe, he said.
Croatia can become an energy hub in the northern Adriatic for gas and oil, Plenković said. He underlined on this occasion that Europe must find a new long-term sustainable alternative to Russian energy products at an affordable price.
To learn more, see our policy section.