Athens, Tel Aviv sign deal to deepen energy cooperation

By Vassilis Nedos

Greece and Israel signed a joint declaration last week that further enhances their cooperation in the energy sector and acts as a guide for the development of relations of wider geopolitical significance for the two Mediterranean countries. It also makes clear that the two sides with proceed with a series of actions for the joint extraction and exploitation of hydrocarbons.

The two states “will examine ways and means for the better development of natural resources in the Eastern Mediterranean and their transfer to the energy market,” reads the confidential agreement, which has been seen by Kathimerini. This phrase refers to plans for the construction of an underwater gas pipeline from Israel to Greece via Cyprus, bypassing Turkey.

Greek-Israeli cooperation stretches well beyond that pipeline, however. The declaration signed by Greek Energy Minister Yiannis Maniatis and his Israeli counterpart Silvan Shalom, provides for more cooperation in the fields of natural gas as well as of renewable energy sources in the context of international and European organizations. The Greek government has already included in the European Union-subsidized “Projects of Common Interest” program both the gas pipeline and an underwater electricity cable to run from Israel to Greece via Cyprus.

Tel Aviv intends to make Israel a strategic investor in Greece’s energy sector. The joint declaration says the two countries have agreed “to examine the possibility of joint research,” which concerns the common initiative by Israel’s Ratio Petroleum and Greece’s Energean Oil & Gas for surveys in the northern Aegean, as well as future surveys that may take place in the Ionian Sea and south of Crete, and in areas that have not yet been selected for utilization. Talks last week touched on the tenders for the 15 hydrocarbon blocks in the Ionian and south of Crete, which Athens intends to put to tender next year.

In the context of closer relations, the agreement also encourages city twinning, aimed at developing energy-saving technologies. The Greek side intends to absorb know-how, particularly for island regions dependent on the mainland for energy.