On October 16, the German Marshall Fund (GMF) and the Bureau of European Policy Advisors (BEPA) convened a symposium on the wider implications of the discovery of large natural gas fields in the eastern Mediterranean region. The symposium was hosted at the European Commission and was attended by representatives from European institutions, think-tanks and the business community.
After welcoming remarks by Jean-Claude Thébault, director general of BEPA, and Ian Lesser, executive director of GMF Brussels, a panel of regional U.S. and EU experts reflected on the questions that have arisen from the discoveries. Speakers included Sir Michael Leigh, senior advisor at GMF; Simon Henderson, director Gulf and Energy Policy Program, the Washington Institute; Toula Onoufriou, Vice-Rector, Cyprus University of Technology; Sagi Karni, head of the Foreign Affairs Division of the Israeli Ministry of Energy and Water Resources; and Michael Koehler, head of cabinet, Commissioner Günther Oettinger.
The panelists underlined the benefits of the gas finds for the region as a whole and the challenges that come with it. For a region that has always been heavily dependent on energy imports, the discoveries offer great prospects in terms of energy security and economic diversification. At the same time, they could become a source for tension, as the discoveries are superimposed on existing conflicts, including the division of Cyprus, the absence of peace between Israel and Lebanon and the Israel-Palestine conflict.
In their remarks, the speakers focused on the prospects for exploration and production offshore Cyprus and Israel, different options for export, regulatory, safety and security issues and the impact of the discoveries on natural gas markets. Following the discussion it was concluded that gas from the eastern Mediterranean can strengthen the energy security of the countries concerned, the region as a whole and the EU. There is a role for the EU in sharing best practice on the governance of energy resources and in encouraging regional cooperation. GMF’s current project will support these efforts, through research, dialogue, expert meetings and publications.