Dancing Around Turkey, Greek Energy Chief Says EastMed Game Changer

Cypriot Energy Minister Georgios Lakkotrypis, front left, Greek Energy Minister Kostis Hatzidakis, front center, and Israel's Minister of Energy and Water Yuval Steinitz sign an agreement as Greece's Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, rear center, Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiadis, rear left, and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu look on, in Athens, Thursday, Jan. 2, 2020. (AP Photo/Yorgos Karahalis)

ATHENS – An agreement between Greece, Israel and Cyprus to build an undersea pipeline to carry gas from new offshore deposits in the southeastern Mediterranean to Europe, is not against any other country and will strengthen EU energy security, Greece’s Environment and Energy Minister Kostis Hatzidakis told New Europe in an interview.

“This agreement is not against any other country. It is in the interest of our countries, our peoples and it is in the interest of energy security in Europe, in the European Union. For many years the European Union has a clear and permanent strategy: diversification of sources and routes. And certainly, this project serves clearly, undoubtfully this objective of the European Union,” Hatzidakis said.

Hatzidakis and his Israeli and Cypriot counterparts – Yuval Steinitz and Yiorgos Lakkotrypis — signed the agreement Jan. 2 to build the 1,900-kilometer pipeline at a ceremony in Athens, which was attended by Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades.

Asked if the EastMed agreement cancels out a controversial seaborder demarcation deal between Turkey and Libya, Hatzidakis said, “The notorious agreement between Turkey and Libya is another issue. As you know, we don’t believe this agreement is valid. But, anyway, this agreement among Israel, Cyprus and Greece is an agreement that brings closer the three countries. It is an agreement which will promote our economic interests and, at the same time, certainly is an answer to anybody who puts into question our sovereignty. We don’t want to have any tension with neighboring countries but, of course at the same time, we will defend our national interests based on international law.”

Two days before the signing of the EastMed agreement, Italy’s Minister for Economic Development Stefano Patuanelli, whose portfolio includes Energy, sent a letter of support for the project to Hatzidakis. “I consider this letter as first step for the future participation of Italy. We will discuss further with the Italians,” Hatzidakis told New Europe. “The Italians already support this project in the framework of the Projects of Common Interest (PCI) in Brussels and we believe that in a spirit of good will we can have an agreement with the Italians soon,” he added.

The Greek Energy Minister said Israel, Cyprus and Greece plan to discuss with Italy when a final agreement can be signed between all four countries. “We will discuss this issue with the Italians. It’s an issue more or less legal. The legal question is not the most important. When there is a will, there is a way and I think this is the case for this project,” Hatzidakis said.

Turning to an agreement between Energean and Public Gas Corporation of Greece (DEPA) signed earlier on Jan. 2 to cooperate to further support the EastMed Pipeline Project, Hatzidakis said the commercial deal will increase the viability of this project. “We’re not saying that everything will happen automatically but today we had the first step that means, except the support from the European Commission itself, which supports financially certain studies concerning the project and the viability of the project, we had the first commercial agreement between Energean and DEPA which is a significant step forward and we believe that other steps will follow,” he said.