The trilateral meetings, the East Med pipeline and the cultivation of illusions by the government ruling forces
Article by Neoklis Sylikiotis, AKEL Political Bureau member
4th February 2020
The discovery of a hydrocarbons reserve in the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) of the Republic of Cyprus in 2011 created new facts for our country, great challenges and huge prospects. It opened a window of hope for the future of our country and people, both for the exploitation of our country’s natural wealth and for the Cyprus problem too, given that the country’s energy prospects should and can become an incentive for the solution and reunification. It shouldn’t be a pretext for abandoning the priority for the solution of the Cyprus problem.
Nevertheless since 2013, all of the plans and structures for our country’s energy program have been dismantled. The plan for the construction of a liquidation terminal was abandoned. Every day pompous proclamations are being made, but they almost never result in any action or development. Instead of yielding practical results, government policy produces front page headlines. The government also perceives Cyprus’ cooperation with countries of the region in the same way.
AKEL’s position is that for the exploitation of natural gas a study must be carried out to consider all options and subsequently take a decision on the best option based on purely technical and economic criteria. Natural gas pipelines aren’t built by governments, but by companies. They are technical projects that are constructed after buyers are secured in advance and are judged solely on their technical and economic performance. What is decided at every trilateral meeting between Greece, Cyprus and Israel is not the construction of the EastMed pipeline, but the intention and desire of governments for this project to proceed. The governments of the countries won’t build any pipeline, but will set out the political and legal framework so that if a company does decide to build the pipeline it can do so. Israel has taken a decision that the natural gas fields that have been confirmed will be used solely for domestic consumption purposes and prohibits their export. Cyprus has only one deposit confirmed, and it was decided to send it to Egypt.
In the end, what natural gas will be transported through the EastMed pipeline to Europe? No one has carried out a study on the cost of constructing the pipeline and the selling price of the natural gas? If the cost of transporting the natural gas tomorrow is double than the one the EU countries are buying it today, will these countries choose the natural gas of EastMed and for what reason? Is the EastMed pipeline more profitable than the construction of a terminal? Has any study been carried out to give an answer to the above question at a technical, economic, political level? Why did the government, without any study whatsoever, decide that the terminal station was unsustainable and stopped any planning, while as regards the pipeline – again without any study carried out – it gives the impression that the project is viable? Why have the government ruling forces vanished the study carried out by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), which when it first came out in 2013 stressed that the most correct, flexible and effective option for Cyprus is to proceed with the construction of a terminal? For the government ruling forces, the pipeline is an announcement for political activity and forming geo-political impressions and not a technical project for the better use of natural gas itself.
We express the wish that at least this time the government will manage to complete a project it has been announcing for five years. Everyone will be judged by results. So far though, the only result we have seen is big talk and announcements. As Cyprus, we only have one deposit that has been confirmed (‘Aphrodite’ deposit). We haven’t managed to use even this deposit for various reasons. A very serious problem Cyprus is facing is the Israeli government’s unwillingness to sign an agreement with the Republic of Cyprus for joint exploitation. Recently the Israelis have been hardening their stance and want to have a say in the exploitation of the field. The government has been holding trilateral meetings for seven years now and we haven’t managed to solve this problem. Perhaps this whole story regarding trilateral meetings is in the end only about creating impressions?
Cyprus has every reason to be seeking regional cooperation with all the states in the region, to promote mutually beneficial cooperation based on cooperation, development and the respect for international law. However, this is far from the perceptions and illusions being systematically cultivated by the Anastasiades government that military cooperation with Israel and the US will supposedly shield the Cypriot EEZ or that Cyprus has become “a geopolitical big player of the Mediterranean”.
Unfortunately, even today, when the policies of the government ruling forces have collapsed and the illusions they have been cultivating among people are being dispelled, instead of dealing with the substance of the issue by providing convincing answers, they are again wasting time by handling issues to serve communication considerations. They must at long last realise that the communication management of issues has its limits. They have to address the substance of their policy, which only leads to deadlocks.
The reality is harsh. Turkey – exploiting the absence of negotiations on the Cyprus problem – is provocatively intensifying its aggressive actions, creating new illegal fait accompli against Cyprus, but without a corresponding reaction on the part of the international community.
In any event, Cyprus must not and cannot accept Turkey’s claims that are not based on international and the UN Law of the Sea, nor the aggressive actions of the occupying power.
AKEL’s position is that the energy program of the Republic of Cyprus should continue, without any fanfare, but by pursuing an overall strategic planning. It must continue by expressing our parallel and unwavering readiness for a solution to the Cyprus problem based on the agreed framework, which is the top priority for our people’s future.
Intervention of Georgos Koukoumas, member of the C.C. of AKEL and the International Relations Department, at the Hearing “Palestine: What’s Next?” organized by GUE/NGL2015-07-1
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