The Energy Scramble in the Eastern Mediterranean: Between Regional Conflict and Prospective Economic Cooperation

By Ioannis N. Grigoriadis
Submitted to Session P3598 (Precious Resources: Water, Energy, and Climate, 2013 Annual Meeting
Intl Rltns/Aff
Cyprus; Egypt; Europe; Israel; Lebanon; Libya; Mediterranean Countries; Turkey;
Following the discovery of large natural gas fields in the seabed of the Eastern Mediterranean, energy has become yet another sensitive issue in Eastern Mediterranean politics. Cyprus and Israel appear to be the first two states to benefit, as they have already signed large contracts about drilling projects that would soon turn them into net energy exporters. The possibility of discovering further energy reserves has raised the question of delineating the Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZ) in the Eastern Mediterranean. This has involved all littoral states and added one more potential regional dispute. Unilateral moves by littoral states could potentially lead to regional tension and conflict, while the prospect of referring the delineation to international adjudication appears dim at the moment. Turkey’s role has been important not only because it is one of the region’s littoral states, but also because it could serve as a transport hub for the delivery of hydrocarbons to-be-extracted to the world market. Nevertheless, the Cyprus question and Turkey’s frozen relations with Israel obstruct regional cooperation, as well as the promotion of European energy security. The European Union authorities would be very glad to acquire access to Eastern Mediterranean energy resources, as this would reduce their dependence on energy imports from Russia. This paper aims to examine the validity of realist and liberal theories of international relations through the study of the energy scramble in the Eastern Mediterranean region, in particular the theories that focus on absolute and relative gains regarding the formation of actors’ behaviour. It also aims to identify risks and opportunities for regional stability and European energy security that the discovery of energy resources has brought about.