As heads of state and government of Cyprus, France, Greece, Italy, Malta, Portugal and Spain, or so-called “Club Med,’ convened in Rome on January 10 for the fourth Summit of the Southern European Union countries, Cyprus President Nicos Anastasiades reportedly discussed energy issues with French President Emmanuel Macron and Italian Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni. Currently, Italian energy major ENI and France’s Total are drilling for natural gas in Cyprus’ exclusive economic zone (EEZ). Also in Rome, Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and Gentiloni reportedly discussed energy cooperation. Greece and Italy are cooperating to bring Caspian gas to Europe via the Trans Adriatic Pipeline.

Connecting with the Trans Anatolian Pipeline (TANAP) at the Greek-Turkish border, TAP will cross Northern Greece, Albania and the Adriatic Sea before coming ashore in Southern Italy to connect to the Italian natural gas network.

The chairman of the Institute of Energy of South East Europe, Costis Stambolis, told New Europe in an interview that “the prevailing issue is TAP and progress made and how is the gas going to enter the Italian system”.

Greece and Italy will also be energy partners if Russian gas monopoly Gazprom proceeds with plans to construct the second branch of the Turkish Stream gas pipeline to Europe. “Turkish Stream is moving ahead, but it’s premature to talk about taking gas quantities to Europe via Greece as long as the United States is toughening its stance concerning further sanctions against Russia and one of the first projects to be impacted would be new pipelines bringing gas from Russia through Greece to Italy,” Stambolis said.

Regarding plans to bring gas from the recently discovered East Mediterranean gas fields to Europe and boosting EU energy security, the IENE chairman said, “There has been very little progress over the last few months on these issues. The impression that I have is that there have been a lot of talks but very little progress. We don’t have any signed agreements, we don’t have any concrete by Cyprus of how it’s going this gas out from Aphrodite or anywhere else, we don’t have any plans from Cyprus on how its going to bring gas into mainland Cyprus to use for local industry and power generation”.

Turning to plans to construct the Eastern Mediterranean (EastMed) natural gas pipeline, directly connecting East Med resources to Greece via Cyprus and Crete, Stambolis said the impression in the market is unless Israel makes up some further decisions on how its going to use the gas from the Leviathan gas field, then the whole issue is in limbo. “Somebody has to break the eggs and that’s Israel. Israel has to take some concrete steps to decide what to do with the second phase of Leviathan. But even the first phase, I understand they have not completed all agreements. So as long as this issue is unresolved, it affects all other issues, especially Cyprus,” he told New Europe.

“Cyprus has several options. One option is to take the gas to Egypt. Another option is to take the gas to Israel because it’s not far. The deposits are not far from each other. Not only that but there are specific proposals tabled by companies operating in Israel to take some of the gas from Cyprus. I understand that Cyprus has not yet responded favourably on this,” he said. “And then on the background we always have this plan of a liquefied natural gas (LNG) plant on mainland Cyprus provided we get more gas from the fields that they are now prospecting. So everything is still open,” Stambolis concluded.

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