Dr. Glen Segell
(Researcher at The Institute for National Security Studies Tel Aviv, Israel)
The European Union was formed on the understanding that the sharing of resources was the basis for ensuring peace, stability and prosperity. No longer would Europe go to war over the iron, steel and coal of the Saar Basin and the Sudetenland. No longer would agricultural land be turned into battlefields.
The principle of “all for one and one for all”, echoes the famous writing of Alexandre Dumas in the novel of the Three Musketeers. Recently the European Union has spread its wings in sharing; between Greece, Cyprus and Israel with American Assistance.
In August 2013 Greece, Cyprus and Israel signed an agreement that promises to link the three countries’ electricity grids via an underwater cable. The concept and implementation of sharing electricity is not new for Europe. There is such a cable linking Britain and France constructed in the undersea rail tunnel linking the two countries.
The time difference between these two countries means that cheaper electricity flows to each other at peak industry times, while the other country experiences lesser domestic needs. However the agreement between Greece, Cyprus and Israel is unique because Israel is not a member of the European Union.
Nevertheless the geography and natural resources of the Mediterranean have overcome this political obstacle. Sharing will enhance the security and economic benefits not only for these three countries but will be pan-European.
The partners are the Public Power Corporation (PPC/DEH) of Greece, the Israel Electric Company, and the DEH Quantum Energy of Cyprus. Revenues earned from this energy bridge are estimated to reach €17.5 billion with an expected return on investment (ROI) at about 1500 days of operation. Consumers in the three countries will be the first to benefit.
The underwater, 2,000-mega-watt EuroAsia Interconnector will elevate Cyprus out of energy isolation, with cheaper electricity to make its economy become more competitive. Greece will increase its energy efficiency, and will become a major player in the European energy arena.
For Israel this is a solution for its recently discovered gas fields. Israel cannot compete in the regional gas market, which is dominated by Russian supplies and pipelines. So in addition to exporting or selling a small percentage of its gas fields Israel will also generate electricity locally and sell the electricity via the cable to all of Europe, starting with Cyprus and Greece and via the common cable.
In the spirit of the origins of the European Communities in the 1950s agriculture is also included in the agreement. There will also be a project to cooperate with the treatment of sewage as well as recycling water for use in farming. Israeli companies are also involved in the establishment of three of Cyprus’s four permanent desalination plants. So the agreement is not just about electricity it is also about natural gas and water issues.
The agreement and its implementations are not without danger. Greece, Cyprus and Israel will need to work together to protect the electricity cable and the natural gas fields located undersea between Cyprus and Israel.
Cyprus and Israel have rights to these fields but Turkey has challenged Cyprus’s right to some of the gas fields and has even threatened military intervention. This needs to be considered in a broader context.
Israel’s partnership with Greece and Cyprus is seen as a challenge to Turkey. Israel upgraded its relationship with Greece and Cyprus as its ties with Turkey deteriorated after the rise of Islamist President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in 2007.
Greece’s Ambassador to Israel Spiros Lampridis has also expressed concern about Turkey blocking Israel’s participation in NATO programs. This has affected Greece’s security. Israel and other nations in the region - Algeria, Egypt, Jordan, Mauritania and Morocco - take part in NATO projects as a bloc. In blocking Israel, Turkey has therefore prevented Greece from cooperating with any country in the bloc as part of a NATO program.
Despite this Greece and Israel have a long and stable security relationship and continue joint air and naval exercises in the Eastern Mediterranean. The past this has included Crete and the Myrtoo Sea. Israeli Air Force jets have participated in joint exercise and have landed at the Larissa Air Base in Greece. Israeli naval corvettes have been hosted in Salamis, the main Naval Base of the Hellenic Navy. Reciprocally Greek aircraft have landed at Ovda Air Base in Israel and have participated in extinguishing fires in the Carmel hills. Hellenic Navy ships regularly visit Israel’s Haifa port.
However the burden of better security in the Eastern Mediterranean will not be symmetrical. Improved regional water security, its resources and the undersea cable is necessary but Greece and Cyprus don’t encounter the same threats that Israel faces from terrorism.
Israel has the most to lose and will invest the most in enhancing security. To do this, this week the USA agreed to sell Israel six V-22 Osprey aircraft, the first foreign export of this type of aircraft. Israel is also procuring domestically three additional Super-Dvora naval vessels. Both of these new equipment will be in service within the next two years.
The main naval force in the region continues to be the US 6th Fleet with its aircraft carrier group. Hence the USA is once again taking an active role in the security of the European Union specifically with regards to Greece and Cyprus as well as to Israel.
Together Greece, Cyprus, Israel and the USA are established allies.