The East Med Pipeline Project: Moving Ahead

On December 20, 2018, the “East Med” project, aimed to export Israeli and Cypriot off shore gas to Europe via Greece and Italy, moved a step further: the leaders of Greece, Cyprus and Israel met in Beer Sheva (Israel) for the fifth time since the beginning of this trilateral formula, agreeing to commit with the “East Med” plan [Cyprus Mail, “Cyprus, Greece, Israel agree on East Med pipeline”, December 20, 2018].

The project, considered by the European Commission as a Project of Common Interest (PCI), still needs to obtain the EU Commission’s approval, after the feasibility study. The plan for a pipeline linking Israel to Southern Europe is developed by IGI Poseidon SA, a company owned by DEPA SA and Edison International Holding. The overall cost of the energy infrastructure is estimated at 7 billion dollars and “East Med” is expected to be built in seven years.

Greece, Cyprus and Israel will establish a permanent secretariat in Nicosia to coordinate on “East Med”: the intergovernamental agreement could be signed in the first quarter of 2019.

During the fifth trilateral summit in Beer Sheva, the United States’ Ambassador in Israel, David Friedman, stated that Washington “wholly supports” plans for a pipeline in the Eastern Mediterranean, underlining its prominence for stability and prosperity in the sub-region [Tamar Pileggi, “US Ambassador pledges support for Israel-Cyprus-Greece pipeline”, The Times of Israel, December 20, 2018].

If successfully implemented, such an energy project could reduce European countries’ dependence from Russian and Algerian gas, with remarkable implications for foreign policy strategies. As a matter of fact, “East Med” has already contributed to deepen and tighten inter-state relations among Greece, Cyprus and Israel, forging and consolidating a new geopolitical alliance in the troubled Eastern Mediterranean.

Eleonora Ardemagni –  is Associate Research Fellow at the Italian Institute for International Political Studies (ISPI), regular analyst for the Aspen Institute Italy. She teaches at ASERI (Graduate School of Economics and International Relations, Catholic University, Milan, Master in Middle Eastern Studies).