By Marios Eliades, Former Minister



1.           The East Med Gas Forum a development of hope


The recent developments in the Eastern Mediterranean region, particularly those related to the Turkey-Libya cooperation protocol and the even more recent failure of the Berlin Conference on Libya to achieve a significant result in respect to the civil war raging in Libya for many years, create a gloomy, almost depressing climate concerning the future of the peoples of the entire region. All the more so when one reflects upon the statements of officials and the actions of countries in the region that further undermine the already troubled climate in our neighbourhood.


Nonetheless, there are equally recent developments which, at the very least, contribute to renewing hopes that the peoples of our region will eventually succeed in disrupting the path to the lunacy of war and disaster where things seem to be heading at the moment.


Recently, an agreement was signed in Cairo between seven countries, mainly countries of the eastern Mediterranean, on the establishment of the East Med Gas Forum (EMGF). The agreement was signed by Egypt, Cyprus, Greece, Israel, Italy, Jordan and the Palestinian Authority, while the EU, the USA and the World Bank were represented at and supported the FORUM. The EMGF is intended to play an important role in the exploration and peaceful exploitation of our region's natural resources. And it does not matter whether this agency includes countries that have either already discovered significant quantities of natural gas in their EEZs (Egypt, Israel, Cyprus) or not (Palestinian Authority, Jordan, Greece, etc.)


Far more interesting is to acknowledge that, while the countries involved in this forum may be divided by a horrible history of wars and blood (Israel-Palestine) or they are in a quasi-war situation (Israel-Egypt), they find the courage to move ahead towards the road to peace.


Turkey has been the most notable absentee from this institutional cooperation of the eastern Mediterranean countries in this great peace project. It is a glaring failure on the part of the initiators of the Forum that Turkey, perhaps the largest in size, population and coastline country in the region was not invited from the very beginning. This prompted the Turkish Foreign Ministry to make the following statement the very next day shortly after the signing the agreement:

The member countries of the Eastern Mediterranean Gas Forum gathered in Cairo on 16 January 2020 in order to transform the forum into an international organization by signing a foundation charter. This forum is in fact an unrealistic initiative launched by some countries with political motives, under the illusion that they can exclude Turkey from the energy equation in the Eastern Mediterranean. Had the purpose of the forum indeed been cooperation, surely Turkey and the Turkish Cypriots would have been invited to the forum.

Such initiatives launched against Turkey and the Turkish Cypriots will never contribute to peace and cooperation in the region. Any initiative not involving Turkey and Turkish Cypriots in the Eastern Mediterranean will not succeed either. Consequently, this initiative constitutes further proof that countries which have left our calls for dialogue and cooperation unanswered, are still pursuing vain hopes. It also demonstrates the rightfulness of our policies in the region”.


It is my belief that, even at this moment, after the founding of the EMGF, it is worthwhile for the forum's initiators to consider calling upon Turkey to participate in it under the same conditions as the other countries and under International Law. This, coupled with parallel processes which can be developed by the EU together with the US and other international actors,may lead Turkey towards a reassessment of its entire policy on the issue.

The invitation to Turkey to participate in the EMGF could also be accompanied by an additional appeal to the country.

Turkey should be invited to engage in a peaceful dialogue, a serious negotiation with neighbouring EMGF countries/ members to resolve any disputes between them relating to their respective rights in the eastern Mediterranean where they currently exist. Such a negotiation could and should take place, naturally, on the basis of International Law and the geographical realities of which, whether we like it or not, all the peoples in this particular region are being held eternal hostages.

If, against all hopes, such a negotiation fails to resolve our problems, then the EMGF members, including Turkey needless to say, will pledge to collectively sign a referral to the International Court of Justice in The Hague for final resolution. And, naturally, all EMGF member/states together with Turkey shall commit themselves to any ruling of the International Court of Justice that will be fully respected by everyone, even if this is not in line with anyone’s expectations.


2.           The European Union as a catalyst for a positive course of the  institution


It was stated above that, in addition to the Eastern Mediterranean countries directly involved and which may probably be participating in the Forum, a significant interest has already been demonstrated by the EU which could make a decisive contribution to the institution's further success. And perhaps in a unique manner.


In addition to statements to date in respect to the support and practical assistance to its member states and other countries participating in the FORUM, and beyond its most likely discreet diplomatic interventions to countries acting in a manner that undermine the prospect of a peaceful settlement of disputes in the region, I believe that the EU, on this occasion and within the context of seeking a new architecture, should consider the possibility of introducing and establishing a new category of countries associated with the European Union, in addition to the existing status of the Member  States or Third Countries.


The EU could consider introducing the concept of the 'Most Favoured Partnership of Countries Clause” or the “Countries with the most Favoured Status in relation to the European Union Clause”, as is the case with interstate relations between countries.


Such countries - already members or potential members of the Forum - could be granted two-way privileges and special arrangements - political, financial and other – which will place them in a privileged status against other Third Countries in respect to the European Union. Such privileges will naturally be much more limited in content and scope than those enjoyed by Member States. Such privileges would be of interest to all countries participating in the FORUM, and in particular to Turkey, which could participate as well.


What these privileges might be, and how they could be designed is, needless to say, a matter for the EU alone to deal with.

It is likely that the idea of the EU taking up such an initiative may be inappropriate in time, in particular at a moment when the EU itself is facing serious problems as to the adequacy of its structural/ institutional set up, foreign policy, internal cohesion, etc.

Nonetheless, if the EU carefully examines what is at stake in relation to the Union’s position in the region of the Eastern Mediterranean, including the Libyan issue, it may decide that it will be worthwhile to attempt this leap forward, primarily for its own protection and safety.


The rationale behind such an approach on the part of the EU is, among others, the following:


1.    Normalisation of the whole situation in the eastern Mediterranean would help the European Union secure alternative energy sources, much needed for its economy these days. On the contrary, the perpetuation and the emerging serious deterioration of the current situation, are very likely to put the European economy  which is already on a declining path to a further test.


2.    Stabilisation of the situation in the Eastern Mediterranean, the Middle East and Norther Africa would be instrumental towards curbing the migration flows to Europe, a problem that threatens not only the  structure of the Union but also the very existence of European societies as such. The almost uncontrolled xenophobic syndromes as well as the phenomenon of a spectacular rise of extreme nationalism, largely due to the mass migration of people to the European continent, are now prevalent in all European societies.


The problem of illegal immigration to Europe has been extremely serious for the last 8 to 10 years where migration flows mainly originated from Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Turkey and other countries in the Middle East and Asia.

One can only imagine how much more acute and difficult to solve this problem will become if the wounds of Libya remain open, since Libya constitutes the main channel   through which enormous migratory flows  across the entire sub-Saharan African and the African continent as a whole will be channeled to Europe in future.


3. It would significantly expand its geopolitical presence in the interesting, in all respects, region of the eastern Mediterranean and the Middle East.


4.    It would comfort the grumbling, annoying voices complaining that the EU is either not involved or is unable to influence the energy evolution in the eastern Mediterranean and the geopolitical developments in the greater Middle East region.


It is often heard that in conflict situations of any kind, it is worth trying to build a climate of calmness that will facilitate the resolution of disputes and gradually lead to what was wisely called a "WIN-WIN" situation between two parties in conflict.

The European Union is facing a challenge in the case of the EMGF and the Eastern Mediterranean; that of introducing and establishing an even more ambitious and promising message to the spirit of the times; which is an ALL WIN situation.


This is exactly the very mission of Europe. To prevail in the world as a soft power of Peace and Values.

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