An American think tank and a Greek university are joining forces to shed light on global energy resource investments in the Eastern Mediterranean, and especially in Greece, this October in Athens.
The First Eastern Mediterranean Energy Leadership Summit will be held at the Divani Apollon Palace & Thalasso in Athens, Greece, from October 1 - 2, 2019. The event is organized by the Transatlantic Leadership Network, the University of Piraeus, and Symeon Tsomokos S.A.
Held at the Ministerial level, the Summit will gather together senior US & European government officials and business executives from the energy market to identify crucial opportunities and challenges for continued commercial and geopolitical cooperation. Invited countries include the United States, members of the Three Seas Initiative, and countries surrounding the Eastern Mediterranean Region. During the conference diverse thoughts, ideas and best practices will be presented on how Eastern Mediterranean countries can best take advantage of their geographical positions and exploit available energy resources to secure a more reliable, self-sufficient and environmental sustainable energy supply.
The Transatlantic Leadership Network is a newly-created think tank based in Washington, D.C., which states that its aim is to “strengthen and re-orientate transatlantic relations within the rapidly changing dynamics of a globalized world.”
Speaking to Greece’s state-run AMNA news agency, Transatlantic Leadership Network Senior Executive Vice President Sasha Toperich stated that Greece is emerging as a central player on the energy chessboard in the Eastern Mediterranean, and he explained the reasons why it was chosen to host this energy conference.
“For us, this congress is not an isolated or piecemeal effort,” said Toperich. He continued, “instead, we are seeking to establish the October summit as an annual energy institutional event, which will be accompanied by corresponding conferences in Washington, so that we can maintain a steady dynamic momentum.”
On why Greece was chosen to host the summit out of so many other nations, Toperich said that he “nurtures a deep respect for the people of Greece.” He stated that his “associates, Symeon Tsomokos, founder of Tsomokos SA, Professor Athanasios Platias and Professor Aristotle Tziampiris of Piraeus University, are great people and prominent professionals who supported the idea from the beginning.”
Toperich noted how Greece “emerges as a major player in the foreign policy of the wider region, but also as a strong and reliable ally of the United States.”
Regarding its economy, he stated, “The country has successfully completed its fiscal adjustment program and is ready to write a new — even better — chapter in its modern history.
“Recent energy finds in the eastern Mediterranean offer a huge opportunity to Greece. The benefits, therefore, of these new energy revenues will contribute to raising living standards and reducing unemployment,” Toperich declared.
Asked what to expect from the first annual Eastern Mediterranean Energy Leadership Summit in Athens, the Transatlantic Network leader said “we want leaders to lead these discussions.” Elaborating on this point, he stated, “We want to encourage the implementation of reforms in sectors that need it the most, so as to really tap into this dynamic potential of recent energy developments.”
The Three Seas Initiative, also known as the Baltic/Adriatic/Black Sea Initiative, is a forum of twelve states in the European Union, all located in Central and Eastern Europe. The combined area of all these nations connects the Adriatic Sea, the Baltic Sea, and the Black Sea.
Fannon: Eastern Med. Gas Forum contributes to boosting stability in region
The Eastern Mediterranean Gas Forum (EMGF) plays a major role in supporting political and economic stability among member states and helps fruitful cooperation between countries, including Egypt, Israel, Turkey, Cyprus, and other countries, US Assistant Secretary of State for Energy, Francis R. Fannon, told Daily News Egypt.
“Our role will not only be limited to observation, but we will give all forms of support to member states in the EMGF, to make full use of available energy resources and use them in achieving development of those countries,” he stated.
In a different context, Fannon explained that America is following Turkey’s work in gas exploration in the territorial waters of Cyprus, and that such operations should be coordinated among EMGF countries.
He added that Egypt, Cyprus, and Israel are in the same region in terms of gas exploration in the Eastern Mediterranean and cooperation among them serves development in Europe, which seeks to diversify the sources of energy it receives.
Turkey has been drilling for gas off Cyprus amid conflicting demands for sovereignty over territorial waters by the two countries since the island divided between Turkish Cypriots and Greek Cypriots.
Lebanon Maritime Boundaries Dilemma with neighbors
Modern mapping methods and a growing body of international law have the potential to ensure rapid development of oil and gas reserves in the Eastern Mediterranean, a leading energy expert says.
“Scientific advances can take all the guesswork – and therefore much of the scope for conflict – out of setting maritime boundaries between neighbors,” industry veteran Roudi Baroudi said in remarks prepared ahead of a high-profile event in Athens. “The latest cartographical technologies are incredibly precise, so it’s mainly a matter of whether the seven countries involved are willing to make good-faith efforts toward solutions. If they are, they just have to plug the science into the framework made up rules established by the United Nations and verdicts/settlements reached in UN tribunals and other sources of international law.”
Baroudi, who is currently CEO of Energy & Environment Holding in Doha, Qatar, was expected to center his presentation on several of the most contentious issues facing energy development in the Easter Med, starting with tensions between Lebanon and Israel and how Science & Law can assist in resolving this.
“It is no secret that negotiating solutions may require some diplomatic acrobatics, but this no excuse to give up. The stakes are too high,” he added, “Unlocking the resources in question will allow all of the governments involved to invest in fighting the poverty that plagues so much the region.”
Earlier, the announcement of the East Mediterranean Gas Forum has caused some confusion in Lebanon as to how to deal with being left out of this new regional configuration. It is important to keep in mind that, if there is an alignment, it is not directed against Lebanon. More than any other member state, Egypt has the possibility to reach out to Lebanon. Egypt is the key player in this new configuration, and, as an Arab country that maintains close ties with Lebanon, it can play an important role in reassuring the Lebanese about the project while also seeking to strengthen prospects for energy cooperation between the two countries.
Note that EMGF is based in Cairo and is always open for other Eastern Mediterranean countries to join, provided they share the forum’s interests and objectives, and the founders of the forum accept their membership.
Besides Syria, which is still struggling with its civil war, there are two notable absences: Turkey and Lebanon. The presence of Israel in the EMGF is seen as a barrier to Lebanon’s involvement, while poor relations between some of the EMGF founding members and Turkey was another rationale for the forum, beyond energy cooperation.