Energy minister says deal could help moderate Arab influence in Europe; agreement reportedly reached after EU agreed to invest $100 million in a feasibility study
Greece, Italy, and Cyprus have reached an agreement with Israel to lay a pipeline connecting the Jewish state’s gas reserves to the three countries, in a major project estimated at costing over $7 billion that will supply gas from the eastern Mediterranean to Europe, as the continent seeks to diversify its energy supply.
According to Hadashot TV, the European Union agreed to invest $100 million in a feasibility study for the project before the agreement was reached over the laying of the longest and deepest underwater gas pipeline in the world.
As part of the agreement, Israel and Cyprus will be granted preference over other countries in exporting gas to the European market, according to the report.
The EastMed Pipeline Project is to start about 170 kilometers (105 miles) off Cyprus’s southern coast and stretch for 2,200 kilometers (1,350 miles) to reach Otranto, Italy, via Crete and the Greek mainland.
The pipeline will have the capacity to carry up to 20 billion cubic meters (706 billion cubic feet) of gas yearly. Europe’s gas import needs are projected to increase by 100 billion cubic meters (3.5 billion cubic feet) annually by 2030.
Work on the project is expected to begin within a few months, and to conclude within five years, Hadashot TV reported.
Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz commented on the deal to Hadashot, saying that it could temper Arab influence in Europe.
“For decades, we have complained about the Arab influence in Europe due to oil and gas. The export of gas to Europe will moderate this influence to a certain extent and be a counterweight to Arab power,” he said.
Last December, Steinitz said a study on the project showed that the link is feasible, even though it presents technical challenges due to the depths involved and has an estimated cost of 6.2 billion euro ($7.36 billion).
Once frosty, Israel’s ties with Greece and Cyprus have markedly improved in recent years, coinciding with a spat between Israel and regional rival Turkey.
The three countries now hold frequent joint military and civil protection exercises, including a planned joint air force drill that will include Cyprus, Israel, Egypt, and other European countries as part of efforts to bolster stability in the eastern Mediterranean.
In May, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu hailed the growing ties between the three countries as building “an alliance for good” through joint trade, tourism, and health endeavors.
“We are building a great alliance, an alliance for good among our three democracies,” Netanyahu said. He called it “almost inconceivable that our countries did not have this warm, intimate, and direct contact” in past years.
Greece’s Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras has called the project “emblematic” of the cooperation between the three countries.