Cyprus energy minister to step down after crucial Israel visit

1 min read

Cyprus Energy Minister George Lakkotrypis is expected to step down next week, after the president’s first post-lockdown overseas visit to Israel to discuss key regional cooperation.

On the Cyprus-Israel agenda will be the EastMed natural gas pipeline, revenue sharing of joint natgas discoveries and the EuroAsia Interconnector electricity cable, as well as restarting the tourism exchanges.

Daily Kathimerini Cyprus reported on Wednesday that Lakkotrypis, one of only three ministers to serve in the first and second Anastasiades cabinet, will be tendering his resignation soon after they return from Israel.

It said that Lakkotrypis had been tipped to leave the cabinet in the last reshuffle, but the president asked him to stay because of ongoing talks with energy giants ExxonMobil, Total and Eni for further exploration in Cyprus’ exclusive economic zone (EEZ).

On Tuesday, Lakkotrypis told the state broadcaster CyBC that the cross-border revenue sharing of natgas deposits in the ‘Aphrodite’ block 12, operated by Noble Energy, Delek and Shell, and the adjacent Yishai gasfield in Israel, will be on the agenda of talks next Wednesday with his counterpart Yuval Steinitz.

The successor to the 50-year-old Cypriot energy minister will be announced by President Anastasiades soon after his return from Israel, with Kathimerini suggesting that a female candidate is being mooted.

The only name the newspaper mentioned was that of Shipping Deputy Minister Natasa Pilides, whose track record at the head of the maritime industry has been successful since taking office in March 2018.

However, appointing a female minister was a public demand that Nicos Anastasiades ignored last autumn when he replaced technocrat Vassiliki Anastasiades with Ayia Napa mayor Yiannis Karousos as Transport Minister.

That left Labour Minister Zeta Emilianidou as the only female Cabinet member, who together with Agriculture Minister Costas Kadis and Lakkotrypis are the only three remaining from the first administration in 2013.

Despite handling well what has turned out to be the most important cabinet portfolio in recent years, Lakkotrypis also took the flak over the bungling of the halloumi PDO file (protected designation of origin) by a bureaucrat at the Ministry, who misplaced the application and lost the window of opportunity to register the squeaky cheese as a national product, with exports nearing €200 mln a year.

The outgoing energy minister, who worked at Cypriot construction giant J&P, before moving on to managerial positions at the Cyprus offices of IBM and later Microsoft, is reported to be interested in returning to the private sector, having achieved a successful government career and remaining largely disengaged from local politics and ideological rifts.