The leaders of Greece, Cyprus and Israel signed the January 2 interstate agreement to build the EastMed submarine pipeline, which aims to be an alternative source of EU gas supplies.
By Savvas Vlasis
In Greece and Cyprus, the provision was highlighted in the Pipeline Safety Agreement as reflected in Article 10: “Starting from the original project activities related to route identification and evaluation and continue throughout the project. , each Party may take such measures as it deems necessary to ensure the safety of the pipeline and all persons on the territory of that Party involved in the project activities.
The Parties shall cooperate by taking appropriate measures to ensure the safety of the pipeline. In this respect, the Parties may formulate multilateral or bilateral agreements and arrangements for cooperation on project / pipeline security issues. ”
It is clear that the Article provides for the possibility of taking immediate measures, from the design of the route of the pipeline, and not later, when construction has begun, for its safety. Theoretically, therefore, from tomorrow onward the three countries will be able to work out an agreement of this kind which will certainly concern military cooperation.
The provision is perfectly normal, since Turkey has already shown a negative – hostile policy and everything shows that the “militarization” of EastMed will not be avoided. It is at this point that the importance of Article 10’s provisions can be highlighted for the future of the project: either they will deter Turkey, or the three partners will be provoked by Turkish predation and must react.
This is where the questions about the military competence of the EastMed partners arise. Israel’s military power is beyond dispute – it is great. The same applies to the military capability of Cyprus – it is small but not negligible. The question is Greece. Which, precisely because it has neglected its armed forces for 15 consecutive years, represents the “weak link”.
Because Athens is supposed to assume the defense support of Nicosia in any case, both for national and ethical reasons. If the latter has weakened at the level of civilian and military planning due to the decline of the Greek Armed Forces, the special weight of EastMed is the absolute reason for a dynamic reboot.
Greece, as emerging from a multi-year economic crisis and seeking to maximize growth rates but also to upgrade its geopolitical position against the neo-Ottoman conquest, must protect the huge investment it has begun in the exploitation of submarine energy.
This investment, which has huge repercussions for future generations, is intertwined with the research effort in southern Crete in the first place and of course with the multinational cooperation in the Southeastern Mediterranean which is ongoing with Cyprus, Israel, Egypt and Egypt. In this context, EastMed is the first tangible step of Athens’ active involvement in this international cooperation and its obligations have increased.
If, for example, one of the other two partners feels that security measures are needed for the project, Athens cannot “whistle indifferently”, as it has done so far in cases where Turkish research vessels, accompanied by warships, have taken over pirate activity in Cyprus’ EEZ … As Athens has increased expectations from this project, Athens has increased obligations as well.
Israel has invested in EastMed for strategic reasons, not only economic policy and closer cooperation with the EU. It has invested in Hellenism, in the two separate states that it represents today, as a strategic partner vital to its survival. Any indication of weakness by Athens, in the first place, will frustrate and reinforce the tendency for Israel to re-approach neo-Ottomanism.
Consequently, indifference and cutbacks by the government in National Defense issues expired on January 2, 2020. Kyriakos Mitsotakis’ government must invest heavily by vertically increasing defense spending or more specifically investing in new equipment. The recommendations of the Hellenic Defense Ministry have been in place for a number of years. Everyone knows what needs to be done. No one in the government, not even in the opposition, can claim that they do not know.
Things are quite specific. Expenditure on defense equipment should increase by 100% by 2021 and by 2022 by 200% compared to today. That is to say EUR 1 billion in 2021 and EUR 1.5 billion by 2022. Increasing defense spending to 3 and 4% of GDP is justified in view of the stakes. These are the minimum basic measures that must be taken under realistic conditions immediately in order to begin to cover the lost ground. The neo-Ottoman conquest is not a theory. It is a situation that has to be tackled with projects.
The numbers may be dazzling to the sleepy and “progressive” public, but also to the powerful lobby of the populists in the political arena. But it is the only guarantee that EastMed and the country’s overall energy policy will move forward unhindered.
This time, the rulers have another responsibility: to ensure that as much of the national defense spending as possible goes to the Greek Defense Industry so that the costs are clearly paid back through investment. Investments in new technologies, new jobs, new products that will generate revenue in state funds.
It will be unforgivable, following what we have experienced and learned, from the 1996-2002 re-armament effort, that the competent authorities will not take advantage of this prospect to make it a great opportunity for the Armed Forces, the Greek Defense Industry and the economy of the country.