By Stefanos Evripidou
THE ENERGY ministers of Cyprus, Greece and Israel yesterday signed in Nicosia a first-ever Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between the three countries on cooperation in the fields of energy and water.
Cypriot energy and trade minister Giorgos Lakkotrypis described the signing of the MoU as “a monumental moment for cooperation between the three countries”.
The memorandum provides a framework of cooperation which will determine the number of activities that the countries have agreed to jointly pursue, such as the security of energy supply, sustainable development and cooperation among the countries of the region.
In a joint communiqué, the three ministers said: “In this respect, the ministers of Cyprus, Greece and Israel welcome the privately initiated EuroAsia Interconnector project which aims at creating an electricity interconnection between Israel, Cyprus and Greece.”
Lakkotrypis and his Greek and Israeli counterparts Yiannis Maniatis and Silvan Shalom yesterday highlighted that the EuroAsia Interconnector “could potentially allow for the export of electricity generated in the Eastern Mediterranean to the EU energy market through the trans-European electricity networks.”
The project foresees the laying of an underwater high tension electricity cable- able to transfer energy with a total capacity of 2,000 MW- connecting Israel to Cyprus, Cyprus to the Greek island of Crete and from there to the Greek mainland, in the Peloponnese.
The three ministers reiterated their commitment to facilitate the project and see it through to implementation.
“Through this project we aim to lift Cyprus’ energy isolation, something which will help the country become more competitive by introducing cheaper electricity,” said Lakkotrypis.
The EuroAsia Interconnector is one of three proposed collaborations between the three countries which have received the preliminary approval of the European Commission as “projects of common interest”.
According to Lakkotrypis, the second proposed project is to study the feasibility of a pipeline from the East Med to Europe via Greece. And the third is the ‘Med storage project’ where Cyprus will provide tanks at Vassilikos for the storage of liquefied natural gas (LNG), securing the strategic reserves of Cyprus, Israel and other EU countries.
The presence of various LNG regasification terminals around Europe, like in Greece and Croatia, make the storage of other countries’ strategic gas reserves in a liquefied form more feasible, said a source at the signing ceremony yesterday.
In the event of an emergency, the stored LNG can be transported via ship to one of the re-gasification terminals in Europe and on to the end user.
However, all three proposals mentioned are still at the “concept” stage, meaning a host of feasibility studies are required before they can be considered solid proposals.
Although the memorandum is more a statement of intent, than a roadmap of specific actions, it came about after two and a half years of discussion, said the ministers.
Speaking on the proposed initiatives, Maniatis said they will “contribute decisively to the improvement of energy security for Europe”.
He attached particular importance to the fact that they will be included in the EU’s list of projects of common interest, meaning priority will be given to the relevant feasibility studies; there could be a 40 per cent reduction in the time needed to complete the projects; and better financing opportunities will be available from international banks.
For his part, the Israeli minister hailed the “historic moment” in relations between the three countries.
“We feel that we are moving forward to strengthen our trilateral relations and to give a very positive signal to everyone that we have an alliance that will become stronger and stronger in order to implement more projects in the future,” said Shalom.
He said all three countries were “very unique” in the region.
“Greece, Cyprus and Israel are a little bit different from other countries surrounding us. We have to make sure that we will have all the benefits of today’s historic moment,” said Shalom.
All three ministers pledged “to continue their close cooperation in the fields of energy, renewable energy, power production and water treatment and to encourage the development of other related industries, which promote regional cooperation among the countries of the Eastern Mediterranean region”.