Cyprus Mail

Former minister who pioneered gas exploration says EastMed benefits questionable

Former minister Nicos Rolandis

The EastMed pipeline accord has positive and negative aspects, said Nicos Rolandis, who served both as minister of commerce, industry and tourism and minister for foreign affairs in the past.

Rolandis, who was the pioneer who initiated efforts and pursued strongly the issue of the offshore oil and gas reserves of Cyprus during his time of commerce minister, believes the good aspect is that it brings countries such as Greece, Cyprus and Israel together, while the problematic part is that it is a project difficult to implement, and extremely costly.

“From the political point of view, it is an important agreement. It brings us closer to Israel with which relations were not that good in the past,” he told the Cyprus Mail. “I have worked on improving the relations as a minister, and they are finally improving.”

Rolandis went on to comment on the difficulties.

“It is probably a pipeline with a length of 2,000 kilometres and a good part is under the deep sea. To construct it will be extremely difficult.”

He compared it to the Nord Stream pipeline connecting Russia and Germany, which, at a length of 1,222 kilometres, is much shorter than the EastMed pipeline.

However, it has been estimated that the EastMed pipeline will cost €5 to €6 billion or more, while the Nord Stream project costs €10 billion.

The length is arguably not the most important issue. A big difference between the two projects lies in the depth of the sea. While most of the Russia to Germany pipeline is at a depth of 50 metres, on an even seafloor, the area of the Mediterranean Sea in which the new pipeline will be built is much deeper, 2,000 to 3,000 metres.

“It is many times deeper, and on an uneven seafloor. We are talking about a lot of money,” said Rolandis.

Another question is what the project will really have to offer. While the European needs are 470 billion cubic metres, EastMed will support only 10 billion cubic metres, a mere fraction of what is needed.

Thus, Russia will remain the main supplier for the European market, Rolandis argued.

Which leads to the question as to who would be interested in being an investor to actually build the pipeline?

A general problem with agreements signed by European leaders is that they are mainly signed for political reasons and only 2 per cent are implemented, the former minister said.

In this case, whoever would be interested in investing would certainly take Turkey’s hostile stance into account.

“Nobody invests billions easily without being sure to get a return for their money. It would create more problems with Turkey which is an unpredictable and dangerous country. As history shows, if Turkey attacks Cyprus who would help? Most likely nobody.”

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