What a surprise that only one opposition party felt obliged to criticise the government because the French oil company Total decided to delay its drilling in Cypriot EEZ by a couple of months. Only the paranoid Diko leadership suspected something suspicious and issued an announcement asking the government a host of questions. Of course, the silence of the rest of the parties is not necessarily attributable to a greater sense of responsibility because most of the time they show as much zeal as Diko in making a fuss about nothing.
Total will reportedly start exploratory drilling in Block 11 in June instead of April as had been originally planned. It had been forced to put back the start date because of a dispute over who was entitled to provide the company with support from Limassol port. EDT, the company that was to offer onshore logistical facilities to Total and the consortium that would be running the marine service at the privatised port eventually reached an agreement in late December. This was most probably the reason for putting back the start of the drilling by a couple of months.
Yet Diko felt obliged to issue a statement saying there were “justified suspicions that the Anastasiades government sacrificed the energy planning of the Cyprus Republic, giving in to Turkish blackmail.” The party obviously is not aware that the decision about when to drill belongs exclusively to the company that would be paying for it and the government has no say in such matters. Exploratory drilling costs big amounts of money and it is only reasonable that a company would want all the preparatory work to have been completed first and support services to be in place.
Oil companies, because of the huge costs involved in operations, work at a different pace. A two-or-three-month delay is of no consequence for a project that could take many years to come to fruition. And Diko was being disingenuous in claiming that the repeated delays “send a message of the Cyprus Republic’s untrustworthiness to interested companies and investors.” What complete nonsense – it is Total that is responsible for the delays, not the government, and every investor would know that.
It is entirely possible that Total has decided to wait and see what would happen in the Cyprus peace talks before starting drilling, knowing that Turkey could cause trouble, but that is its prerogative. Why would it want to antagonise Turkey? It is not as if the Republic’s navy would offer Total’s ship protection as Diko, disingenuously implied, by stating that “exploiting the natural resources of Cyprus constitutes a sovereign right of the Cyprus Republic.” The party did not propose how the Republic would practically protect this sovereign right if Turkey decided to send a couple of frigates to interfere with Total’s drilling.