The EastMed pipeline will not only enhance Greece’s strategy to become a hub of energy routes and sources, but is changing the balance of geopolitical power in the region. Never before has Greece’s voice been so strong and respected on the European and international stage. Never before has Turkey been so diplomatically isolated. And although it is true that Turkey has only itself to blame for this isolation, as it has consistently – including, most forcefully, through its recent moves in the Cypriot EEZ – placed itself outside the bounds of international legality, the upgrading of Greece’s international position is not simply a result of the vacuum left by the waning of Turkey’s sway in the region. In fact, it is due to our country’s systematic diplomatic efforts to export stability in the Balkans – with the salient example being the Prespes Agreement – and in the Eastern Mediterranean.
Some of these initiatives, such as the meeting of the seven Mediterranean countries of the EU (MED 7), are more than regional in scope, aimed at strengthening the voice of the European south within the European Union, linking Greek and Cypriot interests with those of the second, third and fourth largest economies in the Eurozone. In the Eastern Mediterranean, the most important tool of the systematic and coordinated diplomatic efforts of Greek and Cypriot diplomacy was the strengthening of trilateral strategic cooperation platforms with countries in the region, most importantly with Egypt and Israel. A key element of these trilateral schemes is the creation of a positive agenda for cooperation, centred on energy. At the focal point is the EastMed pipeline, which will carry natural gas from the new production areas, from the south-east Mediterranean basin to the European market, with Crete as the initial point of entry into Europe. This ambitious project not only strengthens our strategy for making Greece a hub of energy routes and sources, but changes the geopolitical balance of power in the region, particularly given the full support it has from the United States. In the same context, we are participating actively in the EastMed Forum, together with Egypt, Cyprus, Italy, Jordan, Palestine and Israel.
The combination of the EastMed and the licensing of Cypriot offshore blocks to major energy companies ensures even greater support from the countries where these energy companies are based for the joint planning on exploitation of our energy resources and for our broader national interests in the region. Thus, we have seen the universal condemnation of Turkey’s recent provocative actions, not just by the EU – for the first time, in the form of concrete measures – but also by the US and all of the countries of the region. Especially important in this direction is the submission in the US Congress of the EastMed Act, which enjoys bipartisan support.
The agreement the prime minister signed recently with the HELPE-ExxonMobil-TOTAL consortium on exploitation of energy resources west and south of Crete marks our country’s capitalisation on its own exclusive economic zone, within the framework of the same cohesive energy strategy. The energy resources extracted will ensure the economic prosperity and energy security of future generations through the use of natural gas, which is the fuel-bridge for transitioning an economy to low carbon dioxide emissions. This is of crucial importance, because Greece is faithfully meeting its commitments under the Paris Agreement on protecting the planet from climate change. Moreover, we have secured the adoption and implementation of the strictest international environmental legislation, with incorporation of all the European environmental rules into national legislation. Natura regions remain untouched, with the highest level of environmental protection, and our latest law institutionalised the so called hydrocarbon observatories – in other words, structures that involve local communities in decision making – and banned fracking, the environmental impact of which is extremely controversial. This contract is a vote of confidence in Greece as a safe investment destination and confirmation of our role as a pillar of stability in the wider region. The anchoring of our energy policies to our country’s geopolitical interests is a real game changer.
- Giorgos Katrougalos is the Greek Minister of Foreign Affairs.