The Institute for Foreign Affairs and Trade hosted a roundtable discussion entitled “Geopolitical competition in the Eastern Mediterranean” on the 17th of February, 2020. The event focused on the regional and global rivalry following the discovery of natural gas reserves in the Eastern basin of the Mediterranean sea and its effects, as well as the related energy security considerations of Hungary and the European Union.
In his lecture, Tamás Szigetvári (senior research fellow of the Institute of World Economy at the Hungarian Academy of Sciences and the associate professor of Pázmány Péter Catholic University) first talked about the opportunities arising from the discovery of natural gas fields under the Eastern Mediterranean. He presented the most important developments in the natural gas markets and identified the possibilities of potential producers in terms of exploitation and utilization. He pointed out the potential conflicts and possibilities of cooperation in the region.
Zoltán Egeresi (research fellow at the Institute for Strategic and Defence Studies and external fellow of the Institute for Foreign Affairs and Trade) talked about the role played by Turkey in the region, especially in relations to the Cypriot crisis and the importance of the recently deepening Turkish-Libyan relations. He emphasized that besides the political dimension, aspects of economic development and energy policy played an important role in the relations between Ankara and other Mediterranean states.
The third lecturer, Péter Kacziba (senior lecturer at University of Pécs) touched upon four topics. Regarding the importance of the gas discoveries, he emphasized that their effect on the European and global gas market is limited, they could be utilised only for diversification. Due to the high costs related to constructing the transportation infrastructure, export will be expensive and, consequently, uncompetitive. As far as the role of the United States is concerned, Kacziba draw attention to the importance of legislative changes implemented in December 2019, which are supportive of the Israeli-Greek-Cypriot axis and lift the arms embargo against Cyprus introduced in 1987. Lastly, in relations with the Cyprus crisis, he emphasized that the decades-long conflict acquired an economic dimension due to the gas discoveries, which does not facilitate but hampers the resolution of the conflict.
In the second half of the event, the speakers replied to the questions of the moderator, Máté Szalai, and of the audience. Among other topics, they reflected on the effects of the utilization of gas reserves on national economic structures and on domestic politics, the interests of China, the dynamics between old and new conflicts, the position of the European Union, as well as the role played by global powers.