The U.S. Defense Appropriations Bill signed into law by President Trump – notwithstanding his objections to parts of it – contains provisions to enhance “security and energy cooperation with countries in the Eastern Mediterranean”, including Israel, Cyprus and Greece. Lifting the arms embargo to Cyprus and prohibiting F-35 fighters transfer to Turkey are quite important parts of the bill, but one would be well advised to dwell more on the provisions pushing forward the implementation of the (earlier) EastMed Act.
On the other hand, the looming enactment of the National Defense Authorisation Act calling for sanctions within 60 days on any companies involved on the Nord Stream -2 Gazprom project to double the Russian natural gas supplies to Germany/Central Europe (Austrian OMV, Royal Dutch Shell, French Engie, German Wintershall are also involved in the project), has been causing expanding ripples. According to Reuters, Swiss-Dutch sub sec construction expert Allseas is to suspend work on the pipeline.
The EastMed gas pipeline project is in no way comparable to Nord Stream-2. The latter, at some 11bn euros sunk cost, is purported to double the flow of Russian natural gas to Europe; it is quite advanced, since it should be finished and operating within the first months of 2020, with both Russian supply and European demand secured. The EastMed project, which faces a similar cost but at largely less-explored sea-bed configuration of the Eastern Mediterranean (compared to the Baltic Sea), would have to first get hold of sufficient gas supplies: Israeli and Cypriot gas finds are still inadequate to make the project economically viable, however strategically important it is considered to wean Europe from Russian natural gas dependence. But the major issue raised by the EastMed pipeline is now clearly geopolitical: it is called to cross the EEZs agreed upon by Turkey and Libya South of Rhodes/SouthEast of Crete. The agreement-in-principle between Israel-Cyprus-Greece-Italy to proceed, whatever the (real , technical and financial) constraints, will be an important piece to the regional geo-political chessboard – especially so if the US join in a perceptible way.
Meanwhile, since we talk of natural gas in the Mediterranean area, it should be noted that the Gastrade-led FSRU at Alexandroupolis has just completed successfully its market-test phase (demand has been at 1.5 times capacity), while some days of extension may be granted due to last-minute demand on part of energy majors. The consortium of the project involves Gastrade (of the Kopelouzos Group, active in Greece with Prometheus Gas based on Russian natural gas), Gaslog (of leading shipping figure Peter Livanos), the Greek and Bulgarian gas companies (DEPA and BEH, participation to be finalized) plus one further energy investor, thought to be transatlantic. The Alexandroupolis FSRU is of major importance for the diversification of gas supply to S.E. Europe overall; it is designed to work in a way complementary to Revithousa NLG storage/regasification facility in the Athens region, as well as to Azeri gas to be carried through the TAP pipeline.
All of these projects have been called, at times, star-gazing exercises; they may be on their way to bridge the geo-political with geo-economic considerations. Take a closer look at the Cavusoglu interview at “TO VIMA” newspaper…