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Greece, Egypt and the EU support Cyprus’ right to explore for hydrocarbons

Šefčovič tells New Europe that through the TAP pipeline, IGB and East Med, Greece is striving to boost the EU's diversification efforts.

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Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades and Egyptian President met on the island of Crete on October 10, for talks aimed at boosting regional cooperation, including the extraction and export of energy resources from the East Mediterranean.

Tsipras and Anastasiades backed Cyprus’s efforts to exploit offshore gas deposits, despite strong objection from Turkey. “We have clearly expressed our support for Cyprus in its efforts to capitalize on the sovereign rights deriving from International Law regarding (offshore deposits) and to make progress in their exploitation,” AP quoted Tsipras as saying.

US energy major ExxonMobil will reportedly search for natural gas off the coast of Cyprus by the end of 2018.

European Commission Vice-President Maroš Šefčovič told New Europe in an interview on the sidelines of the Tatra Summit in Slovakia on October 6 that Turkey should abide by International Law. “We have to find a solution on this one because I saw how the exploration was slowed down by the presence of Turkish warships in the area,” he said.

In February, Turkey dispatched warships to block drilling by Italian energy company ENI off the Cypriot coast. “Our the position from the European Union in this case was quite clear that in this case we have to respect international law,” he said. Šefčovič noted that exploration was done in Cyprus’ territorial waters.

“The exploration was done in the south of Cyprus so there was no question about International Law and the Law on the High Seas and that’s the way we communicated it to Turkey as well,” Šefčovič said.

The Commission Vice President noted that hydrocarbon exports from the East Mediterranean could increase the bloc’s energy security.

“We had a chance to discuss with Prime Minister Tsipras when I was in Greece last Monday (October 1) and he is, I have to say, very well versed in all the pipeline business. He is pretty well informed and I saw he’s following it very closely and he was underlying the fact how Greece is contributing to its energy security and European energy security through the diversification of supply,” Šefčovič said.

“They did a great job in resolving all the remaining issues of TAP (Trans Adriatic Pipeline) which would bring Caspian gas to Greece and Europe. They’re progressing very well with the connector with Bulgaria – the famous IGB, which would allow Greece to channel and push the gas up to the north as they’re also investing in a second LNG in Alexandroupolis,” he said, referring to plans to develop in the Northern Greece town of Alexandroupolis a floating liquefied natural gas (LNG) receiving, storage and regasification unit (FSRU), before noting that Greece already has the Revithoussa LNG terminal, west of Athens.

Commenting on the summit between Greece, Cyprus, and Egypt, Šefčovič said the East Mediterranean might become a second Norway, contributing to EU energy needs.

Cyprus and Egypt are planning to link Cyprus’ Aphrodite field with the Egypt liquefaction plants in Idku and Damietta. Both plants already have sales contracts in place, which they had to discontinue when gas supplies in Egypt run low, and are now being resumed.Asked about the potential of gas exports from the East Med via Egypt’s LNG plants, Šefčovič said, “We’re currently working on a feasibility study for this East Med pipeline that was a joint project of Greece and the European Commission,” he said, adding, however, that “the construction of such a pipeline takes some time and has to be very well calculated. A gradual approach, using the gas from this sector and getting it to the LNG facilities in Egypt and then to Europe is, I think, the best and most reasonable approach right now and it really creates a situation where Greece becomes quite an important energy hub for the region and for Europe.”

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Co-founder / Director of Energy & Climate Policy and Security at NE Global Media

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