During her brief visit to three strategic states this week, vital to the European Union’s energy security and supply, the EU Commission President had a lot to say, directed to many, at home and abroad.
She emphasised the crucial role being played by the “abundance” of solar and wind energy that Israel, Jordan, and Egypt enjoy and their newly discovered offshore natural gas resources.
A steady supply of cheaper energy will ensure these countries are regarded as reliable, geostrategic partners and an alternative source, cutting dependence on the whims of Russia and other regional dictators.
After economic stability and prosperity come social welfare and political stability, with these three neighbours seen as the anchors of peace and progress in the Middle East.
Ursula von der Leyen said that now, more than ever, relations with the EU are warmer and closer.
“We are exploring ways to step up our energy cooperation with Israel,” she declared, underlining high-tech research and smart technology solutions, which will help improve the lifestyles of all, from the frozen northern European forests to the Mediterranean nations bracing for scorching summers ahead.
However, she was also mindful of climate change’s biggest threat and that the investment should go into greater electrification.
A cornerstone of her Green Deal concept is the electricity cable from Israel to continental Europe, via Cyprus and Greece, with von der Leyen calling the EuroAsia Interconnector “the world’s longest and deepest underwater power cable”.
It’s one of the biggest European infrastructures, owned and funded by Europeans and built by Europe’s leading global contractors.
Cyprus is ahead in the licensing and permitting process of the project that will begin with a 1,000MW electricity cable, doubling its capacity to 2,000MW.
Neighbouring countries want to tap into the vast European energy market, selling them sun-powered energy at a quarter of the cost of natural gas-fired power plants.
This will earn them hard currency to re-invest in their economies and societies, completing the cycle by improving welfare, democratic institutions, and community services.
With the Commission President embracing the interconnector as a landmark supply vehicle, it’s a matter of time before regional governments realise they have to fast-track the approvals needed to get the project going, maybe even completed ahead of schedule.
Projects such as these, as well as the prospect of redesigning Cyprus’ energy policy, in the light of a more favourable outcome to export natural gas to Egypt for processing and export while converting the EastMed pipeline to a clean hydrogen project, will reinstate the island’s role in decision making.
An opportunity also lies in redefining Cyprus’ contribution to the geopolitical sphere, contributing to getting UN peace talks up and running again.
Cyprus needs to step up to the challenge and implement urgent reforms, streamline investment processes, and improve competitiveness, all lagging due to idleness, indecision, and apathy, driven by financial and political corruption in another election year.