EEAS Briefing: Energy Diplomacy in the Eastern Mediterranean - Charlotte Brandsma Testimony
On February 18, 2016, Charlotte Brandsma, program coordinator for the Mediterranean Program, gave a briefing on the geopolitics of energy in the Eastern Mediterranean region at an energy diplomacy meeting at the European External Action Service (EEAS) in Brussels, Belgium. She presented the latest energy developments in the region, the opportunities and challenges for regional cooperation in this field, and the potential for EU involvement in the region.
In recent years, significant gas resources have been discovered off the shores of Cyprus and Israel. The gas discoveries could strengthen energy security in the area, support efforts aimed at building economic and political stability in the region, and contribute to the energy diversification of Europe. However, regulatory uncertainty in Israel and downward revisions of the number of resources in Cyprus raised scepticism on the general idea that the Eastern Mediterranean might become a gas-exporting region. However, discovery of the large Zohr gas field offshore Egypt in August 2015 might change the regional gas outlook.
The proximity of Zohr to the gas fields in Cyprus and Israel could allow for joint development and the creation of an integrated regional energy infrastructure network. This would be of benefit to the region as it would ensure that the Eastern Mediterranean as a whole could have access to the gas and economies of scale would bring down the development costs. Recently, steps have been taken in this direction, with trilateral talks between Egypt-Cyprus-Greece, Israel-Cyprus-Greece, Lebanon-Cyprus-Greece, and Jordan-Cyprus-Greece.
The European Union should support this type of cooperation, both politically and financially. It could provide substance to the sustainable energy security package by diversification of it gas supply sources and contribute to the stability of the neighbourhood by allowing regional collaboration in an area that otherwise currently presents very few opportunities for cooperation.
Photo Credit: Cipiota
Offshore energy discoveries in the eastern Mediterranean offer Israel and Cyprus a comparatively clean, low cost, indigenous source of energy that will provide for their needs well into the second half of the 21st century.