One of the many aspects of the war in Ukraine is the European recognition of the pressing need to become independent from Russia on energy.
It is an issue that the United States has repeatedly raised in recent years, and which has been part of relevant European discussions, but in a completely different, less urgent context, as confirmed by the parallel construction of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline.
Rapid developments have changed ways of thinking and expectations. The image of Russia in the eyes of Europeans is no longer the same. Dependence on Moscow, especially to such an extent, is unacceptable.
As a result, plans will have to change rapidly. In the new environment that is being created, the transport of gas from the huge deposits that have been discovered in Egypt, Israel and Cyprus is coming back to the fore.
Thoughts and efforts in recent years to build the EastMed pipeline have virtually frozen following a recent US State Department non-paper that provoked reactions in Athens and Nicosia. Washington’s shift has a lot to do with the Biden administration’s prioritizing of the climate crisis and the need to switch to environmentally friendly energy sources.
However, the war has inevitably changed the landscape. Green growth remains the strategic long-term goal, but the war and its devastating effects cannot help but affect planning, at least for the next few years. In this new environment, the need to exploit the large gas reserves in the Eastern Mediterranean is increasing. Europe needs them more than ever.
In this light, the next step for Athens and Nicosia is to immediately promote the debate on the transfer of gas to European markets. The US must support the prospect given the new realities created by the war. Some insist that the EastMed pipeline is an economically viable option, while others disagree. In any case, there are numerous alternative ways of transporting gas – some involve the construction of pipelines, others do not.
In the context of the discussion that will inevitably come to the fore, the credibility of the countries that will be part of the new energy schemes will play a primary role. Greece is a credible partner with a clear geopolitical orientation and a stabilizing regional footprint – which it proved once again in the Ukraine war.
Many options are being discussed. The question that reasonably arises is whether Europe, having paid dearly for its dependence on such a revisionist and provenly aggressive country as Russia, will choose to increase its dependence on another country – even if it is not a producer but a transit country – whose behavior is characterized by similar aggression and revisionism.
Geography makes Greece a natural gateway to the European markets. Its reliability makes it a protagonist in any plans to transfer gas from the Eastern Mediterranean to the Balkans and the rest of Europe.