It is widely argued that as a result of the 2008-2009 energy crisis between Russia and Ukraine, member-states of the European Union and European countries more generally, want to diversify their energy sources and ultimately reduce their dependency on Russia. In light of this, continental Europe emerges as an energy market in need, while potential alternative energy (natural gas or oil) producers and/or transporters acquire significant geopolitical, geo-economic, and strategic value. The existing energy pipeline projects that end up in Europe, coupled with other similar projects currently in progress and the newly-found natural gas reserves in the eastern Mediterranean – in the Israeli and Cypriot maritime Exclusive Economic Zones – and in the Black Sea, lead to the emergence of a new geo-economic competition of strategic significance. This competition for fulfilling Europe’s energy needs has political extensions and implications for the actors involved. Τhe most important actors taking part in this competition, at this juncture, are arguably Turkey – along with energy producers such as Azerbaijan – and Israel in cooperation with Cyprus and even Greece.
Natural resources have long been the cause of both development and conflict. Of course, in resource-abundant countries natural resources have, more often than not, caused conflict rather than development. However, the same cannot be said for third countries, often colonial powers, which exploited such resources abroad for their own development. This is one of the reasons why natural resources have been often referred to as a “curse”; an additional reason is the implications that the exist-ence of natural resources has for the management of the economy (e.g. high prices, low exports, etc.).
Cyprus has itself effectively acquired the status of a resource-abundant country when recently, on what was called “an historic” day, the President of the Republic Demetris Christofias announced that the Block 12 of the Cypriot Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) “contained an estimated 5 to 8 trillion cubic feet (tcf) of natural gas”. As “the second-largest hydrocarbon discovery in Europe in more than a decade”, the Cypriot natural gas paves the way for not only local but also regional development and cooperation. However, there is always the flip side of the coin and that is the international rivalry that may be triggered due to the alteration of the regional balance of power as a result of this and other developments. Below I briefly examine the features of the limited crisis surrounding the Cypriot natural gas and the Eastern Mediterranean more generally, as well as the features of a potential international cooperation at the re-gional and trans-regional level. The goal is to deter-mine whether bilateral disputes could be bridged, given the political and geopolitical realities at hand, to the end of avoiding a crisis escalation in the Eastern Mediterranean.
To read the complete version of this article download Political Reflection Quarterly Vol.3 No.2, 2012, pp.56-59, here
(PhD (Cand.) Politics & International Studies, University of Warwick, UK)
Since the drillings at block 12 in Cyprus’ Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) for the finding of natural gas were announced a few months ago, a diplomatic crisis, which later became a real threat to the regional stability and security, begun to unfold. Israel and Greece are directly involved in Cyprus’ efforts to drill out its natural gas; the former because of the geographic proximity of its own underwater energy reserves to the Cypriot block, and the latter because of the common Turkish disputes it faces regarding its marine borders, the strong diplomatic and economic bonds it maintains with Cyprus, the economic benefits of exploiting its own underwater energy resources and the need to delimitate its own EEZ.
The circumstances under which these developments have occurred could have probably not been worse given the general instability in the regions due to the Arab Spring, the decline in the Turkish-Israeli relations, the re-ignition of the Kurdish problem, the escalating Syrian crisis and of course the economic crisis. Apart from Cyprus, Greece and Israel, there are other actors involved in this situation and parallel realities that could play a significant role in exacerbating the crisis, leading to unfortunate security consequences.