On 21st June 2017, the Institute for Foreign Affairs and Trade (IFAT) hosted the public lecture of Mr Ioannis Kasoulides, the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Cyprus. The lecture was entitled “Energy and security in the Mediterranean from the perspective of Cyprus” and covered a broad range of political, economic, security and energy-related topics of concern to South Eastern Europe and the Levant.
Minister Kasoulides began his lecture by presenting an overview of the security situation in the Middle East, and highlighted the drastic changes in the region’s political landscape over the past decade. He discussed the developments in Syria, Egypt, Libya, Tunisia and Iraq, touching upon such current issues as human security, terrorism, the aftershocks of the “Arab Spring”, as well as the rise of Islamic State. He underscored how Cyprus’ geographical proximity to the Middle East provides a unique vantage point, and detailed the active role his country plays in regional cooperation, international organizations and peacekeeping operations.
During the second part of his lecture, Minister Kasoulides concentrated on a particular development: the discovery of vast offshore petroleum reserves in the Nile Delta and Levant Basins, which may in due course serve as an alternative source of energy imports for the European Union. The Foreign Minister compared the role of oil and gas in the sustainable development of the East Mediterranean to that of steel and coal in the establishment of the European Community. Despite the infrastructural, legal and economic uncertainties surrounding future hydrocarbon production in the offshore waters of Cyprus, the recent discoveries have generated much interest on behalf of companies and politicians alike, and their development has become a cornerstone of Cypriot foreign policy over the past years.
The public lecture was followed by a variety of questions from the audience, the majority of which concerned the sociopolitical and economic implications of East Mediterranean petroleum exports to the EU. Minister Kasoulides noted the importance of energy diplomacy, infrastructural development and market-based competition for his country, but also stated that any future petroleum export revenues would be stored in a sovereign wealth fund based on the Norwegian model. Addressing questions on the possible reunification of the island, he informed the audience that the upcoming round of negotiations between the parties is scheduled for next month in Geneva, Switzerland. Finally, with regards to an inquiry on Cyprus-Russia relations, he stressed the importance of striking a fine balance between solidarity with other EU Member States and upholding historic cultural and economic relations with the Russian Federation.