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Greece-Egypt EEZ deal doesn’t sit easy with Turkey



Greece and Egypt signed a maritime border deal on August 6 with Turkey saying the deal falls in its continental shelf.

Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry reportedly said the agreement allows his country and Greece to move forward in developing promising natural resources, including oil and gas reserves in their Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZ).

“First, this is a positive development,” Charles Ellinas, a senior fellow at the Global Energy Center at the Atlantic Council, told New Europe on August 7. “The agreement is based on UNCLOS, recognising the right of islands, as it should. But it needs to evolve further to cover the eastern part of the two EEZs, delineation of which is affected by Cyprus and Kastellorizo. But it is an excellent start, reinforcing internationally accepted maritime principles,” Ellinas added.

But he argued that neither Greece nor Egypt will rush into drilling. He noted that both countries will need to complete EEZ delineation first – including Cyprus – and then divide their respective EEZs into exploration blocks. That would eventually enable the two countries to proceed with licensing rounds. Its only then that exploration and drilling can start, Ellinas said.

Greece hopes that the agreement between Athens and Cairo will effectively nullify an accord between Turkey and the internationally recognised government of Libya. Last year, Turkey and Libya agreed to maritime boundaries in a deal Cairo and Athens decried as illegal and a violation of international law. Greece maintains it infringed on its continental shelf and specifically that off the island of Crete.

Turkey’s Foreign Ministry said the deal between Greece and Egypt falls in the area of Turkey’s continental shelf and violated Libya’s maritime rights.

Constantinos Filis, director of research at Institute of International Relations, told New Europe on August 7 Turkey and Greece were close in revitalising the exploratory talks on the demarkation of maritime zones. “Under the new circumstances, Ankara will freeze them, without providing a timeline. This entails that we should expect more tensions but I don’t think that we will reach a point of no return or that a ‘hot’ incident will emerge,” Filis said. Still, it seems possible that both the Turkish government and the government of Tripoli, which unfortunately acts as a puppet of the former, will rush to issue licenses to (Turkish state oil company) TPAO for blocks near Rhodes, Karpathos and Kassos as well as south of Crete. Then, Ankara might ask Athens to enter in the exploratory talks, in order to prevent seismic surveys in the aforementioned places,” he added.

Filis argued that the dire condition of the Turkish economy makes rapprochement with the European Union imperative. He noted that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, despite his rhetoric, has to improve ties with the Europeans, if he wants to restore credibility and attract foreign capital. “So, under the current circumstances, he should have no desire to enter into ‘adventures’ with Greece and the EU,” Filis said.

Tensions between Athens and Ankara flared up recently after Turkey said it would send a seismic research vessel into an area south of the Turkish coastal city of Antalya and the Greek island of Kastellorizo.

Ellinas reminded that Ankara since said it will hold off on the survey as both countries planned to revitalise talks. “Following Germany’s intervention, last week Turkey ‘paused’ activities to carry out offshore surveys near the Greek islands, south of Kastellorizo, in order to enable dialogue with Greece to address the disputes between the two countries,” he said, adding that it is not now clear how Turkey intends to proceed. Reportedly, not only it denounced the EEZ delineation agreement between Egypt and Greece, but it also terminated preparatory discussions with Greece. “This could be an over-reaction, but it is perhaps in line with Turkey’s approach to these issues – to enforce its views through intimidation and aggression,” Ellinas said, adding, “The only sensible way forward is dialogue. Let’s hope that this will eventually prevail”.

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At IEA Summit, UN chief urges countries to scrap coal, boost clean energy transition



United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres urged countries on July 9 to invest in reliable, clean and economically smart renewable energy.

“I am encouraged that some COVID response and recovery plans put the transition from fossil fuels at their core,” he said at the first-ever International Energy Agency (IEA) Clean Energy Transitions Summit.

At a virtual meeting chaired by IEA Executive Director Fatih Birol, ministers representing over 80% of the global economy discussed how to achieve a definitive peak in global carbon dioxide emissions and put the world on course for a sustainable and resilient recovery.

EU Energy Commissioner Kadri Simson participated as well as ministers from the world’s largest energy users, including, China, United States, India, Japan, United Kingdom, Brazil, Canada, Italy, South Africa, Mexico, Indonesia and Spain.

Speakers highlighted that the IEA Summit comes at a pivotal moment when the world faces urgent and shared challenges to build back economies, create jobs and accelerate clean energy transitions, the IEA said in a press release.

Guterres noted that the EU and the Republic of Korea have committed to green recovery plans. Nigeria has reformed its fossil fuel subsidy framework. Canada has placed climate disclosure conditions on its bail-out support.

“And a growing number of coalitions of investors and real economy stakeholders are advocating for a recovery aligned with the goals of the Paris Agreement. But many have still not got the message. Some countries have used stimulus plans to prop up oil and gas companies that were already struggling financially. Others have chosen to jumpstart coal-fired power plants that don’t make financial or environmental sense,” Guterres said, citing new research on G20 recovery packages released this week, which shows that twice as much recovery money — taxpayers’ money – has been spent on fossil fuels as clean energy.

“Today I would like to urge all leaders to choose the clean energy route for three vital reasons — health, science and economics,” the UN Secretary General said.

He warned that worldwide, outdoor air pollution is causing close to 9 million early deaths every year and shortening human lifespans by an average of three years.

Moreover, he noted that all around the world, every month, there is new evidence of the increasing toll of climate disruption. “We must limit temperature increase to 1.5 degrees Celsius to avert more and worse disasters. This means net-zero emissions by 2050, and 45 percent cuts by 2030 from 2010 levels. This is still achievable,” Guterres said.

He stressed that clean energy makes economic sense. “Per kilowatt hour, solar energy is now cheaper than coal in most countries. If we had any doubt about the direction the wind is blowing, the real economy is showing us. The business case for renewable energy is now better than coal in virtually every market. Fossil fuels are increasingly risky business with fewer takers,” he said.

The IEA Executive Director issued a first call in March to put clean energy at the heart of the Covid-19 recovery. This early marker was followed by a comprehensive series of ‘damage assessments’ for how the crisis is impacting all fuels and all technologies; actionable recommendations for economic recovery plans; and the full utilisation of the IEA’s ever-growing convening power, the EIA said.

The World Energy Investment report in May warned of a 20% plunge in global energy investment in 2020, with worrying implications for clean energy transitions and security.

The IEA’s Sustainable Recovery Plan sets out 30 actionable, ambitious policy recommendations and targeted investments. The Plan, developed in cooperation with the International Monetary Fund, would boost global economic growth by 1.1% per year, save or create 9 million jobs per year, and avoid a rebound in emissions and put them in structural decline. Achieving these results would require global investment of USD 1 trillion annually over the next three years.

According to the IEA’s Sustainable Recovery Plan, 35% of new jobs could be created through energy efficiency measures and another 25% in power systems, particularly in wind, solar and modernising and strengthening electricity grids. Participants at the IEA summit underlined the particular importance of energy efficiency, and expressed appreciation for the work of the Global Commission for Urgent Action on Energy Efficiency.

In the Summit’s High-Level Panel on Accelerating Clean Energy Technology Innovation, co-chaired by Norway’s Minister of Petroleum Tina Bru and Chile’s Energy Minister Juan Carlos Jobbed participants commended the new Energy Technology Perspectives Special Report on Clean Energy Innovation, which shows the vital importance of innovation for meeting shared energy and climate goals, the IEA said. Participants drew upon the IEA’s five key innovation principles and discussed how to scale up critical emerging technologies like batteries; hydrogen; carbon capture, utilisation and storage (CCUS); and bioenergy.

In the High-Level Panel on an Inclusive and Equitable Recovery, co-chaired by Canada’s Natural Resources Minister Seamus O’Regan of and Morocco’s Energy, Mining, and Sustainable Development Minister Aziz Rabbah, participants discussed the need to put people at the centre of recovery plans, including the most vulnerable, in order to fully harness diverse talents, backgrounds and perspectives. According to the IEA, they underscored the need to protect workers in the short term and to develop skills necessary for the sustainable, resilient energy systems of the future. Participants reinforced the importance of having a clear understanding for how to advance inclusive growth and to track progress, and held up the Equal by 30 campaign to advance gender equality as a valuable model.

Also, in the the High-Level Panel on a Resilient and Sustainable Electricity Sector co-chaired by Commissioner Simson and Thailand’s Energy Minister Sontirat Sontijirawong, participants recognised how indispensable electricity has been for citizens across the world during the crisis. A number of participants emphasised the transition towards a climate-neutral economy, the IEA said, adding that they noted the crucial role of electricity in clean energy transitions, participants underscored the historic opportunity to modernise and improve the sustainability, reliability and security of electricity systems with a diverse generation mix and higher flexibility to integrate larger shares of variable renewables.



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Ukraine to boost renewables, energy efficiency with EU help



Ukraine can focus in developing the country’s renewable energy sector and improve the much-delayed energy efficiency now that the former Soviet republic has concluded the gas transit agreement with Russia, the European Union’s energy chief said on 12 January.

“Meeting with Ukraine’s Minister of Energy Oleksiy Orzhel: after the conclusion of the gas transit agreement, Ukraine can focus on the future of energy and the development of renewable and energy efficiency” European Energy Commissioner Kadri Simson wrote in a tweet, adding that the EU would support Ukraine’s efforts. Simson also said that the Commissioner is looking forward to the next high-level dialogue between the EU and Ukraine.

The former Soviet republic that is reliant on fossil fuels is planning to reduce CO2 emissions by developing a green energy transition and increasing energy efficiency, especially in industry and buildings.

Simson met Orzhel on the sidelines of the 10th session of the International renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) General Assembly in Abu Dhabi at the United Arab Emirates. She also held a meeting with UAE Climate Change and Environment Minister Thani Bin Ahmed Al Zeyoudi on the EU Green Deal and the way to reach climate neutrality. “I am happy to see their active engagement and readiness to continue cooperation,” she said.



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UK economy at its lowest point since 2009



The British economy had its worst quarter since 2009, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) reported on Tuesday.

The economy flatlined month-on-month in October, after two months of decline.

Services expanded by 0.2% from August-to-October, offsetting a 0.7% contraction in manufacturing and 0.3% in construction.

Reflecting a drop in manufacturing exports, Britain’s goods trade deficit widened to £14.5bn in October, up from £11.5bn in September.

The pound shrugged off the low growth, gaining both against the dollar and the Euro. The pound broke over €1.19 on Monday, for the first time since May 2017. The rally seems to respond to polling, which suggests the Conservatives have a strong lead, betting on an orderly exit which removes the risk of a cliff-edge exit.



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Turkey, Libya delimitation deal raises geopolitical tensions



Turkey has signed an agreement with Libya’s internationally recognised government on maritime boundaries in the Mediterranean Sea that could affect oil and gas exploration of other countries and heighten geopolitical tensions in the volatile region.

Ankara reportedly announced the accord and a deal on expanded security and military cooperation on 28 November.

Cyprus Natural Hydrocarbons Company CEO Charles Ellinas told New Europe on 29 November that the immediate impact of the Libya-Turkey agreement is on the Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZs) of Greece and Egypt.

Both Greece and Egypt, but also Cyprus, have already strongly condemned this as not being in agreement with international law, blatantly ignoring the rights of islands. Cairo dismissed the deal between Ankara and Tripoli as “illegal” and Athens said the accord is “completely unacceptable” because it ignored the presence of the Greek island of Crete between the coasts of Turkey and Libya and summoned Turkish Ambassador Burak Ozugergin to the Greek Foreign Ministry, Greece’s Kathimerini newspaper reported.

Cyprus’ Foreign Ministry on 29 November also condemned the deal. “Such a delimitation, if done, would constitute a serious violation of international law,” an announcement said, CyprusMail reported. “It would be contrary to the recognised principle of the convention on the law of the sea and the rights of islands’ EEZ,” it added. “With the distortion of the law of the sea and the counterfeiting of geography – Turkey will gain no footing in the Eastern Mediterranean,” it concluded.

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu claimed that with the memorandum of understanding on the “delimitation of maritime jurisdictions Turkey is protecting “rights deriving from international law.” Reuters quoted him as saying that such accords could be agreed with other countries if differences could be overcome and that Ankara was in favour of “fair sharing” of resources, including off Cyprus.

Constantinos Filis, director of research at Institute of International Relations, told New Europe on 29 November Turkey’s illegal acts do not have legal repercussions. “Ankara’s attempt to agree with an unstable regime, which represents only part of Libya and therefore any deal it signs is uncertain, is a result of its isolation particularly from energy developments. Given that Turkey cannot agree with any other regional actor not only in the delimitation of the continental shelve or EEZ but also on how to stabilize the region and make it prosperous, it is left with no option but to approach a semi-rogue regime in order to showcase its regional power,” he said, adding that the message it wants to send is that any agreement or plan, including energy projects, cannot be fulfilled without Ankara’s consent.

Ellinas said the Libya-Turkey agreement indirectly affects Cyprus as well, as Turkey uses the same justification to delineate its ‘EEZ’ in the Mediterranean. “In effect, this ignores the entitlement of islands, including Cyprus and Crete, to an EEZ. Turkey defines its ‘EEZ’ to be coextensive with its continental shelf, based the relative lengths of adjacent coastlines, which completely disadvantages islands. It is a ‘unique’ interpretation not shared by any other country and not in accordance to the United Nations UNCLOS treaty, ratified by 167 countries but not Turkey,” Ellinas said.

He argued that Ankara appears to be picking and choosing, as it has used UNLOS principles to delineate its ‘EEZ’ in the Black Sea but does not accept them in the Mediterranean. “That may be challengeable under customary international law,” the Cyprus Natural Hydrocarbons Company CEO said.

“In all likelihood Turkey is doing this, as well as through its aggressive actions in carrying out exploration and drilling in Cyprus’ EEZ, in order to establish a position of strength from which eventually to enter into negotiations. But also as a reaction to the growing cooperation among almost all the other countries bordering the East Med. Turkey’s claims have no internationally recognised legal basis,” Ellinas said.

According to Filis, it is not clear whether there is an agreement – rather, it seems to be a preliminary step of expressing their intention to sign an agreement in the future. “But the most dangerous repercussion might be Turkey’s attempt to use it as a basis for projecting its supposed sovereign right to proceed with seismic activities in the area between Rhodes and Crete, especially in the southeastern part of the matter, thus confirming its strategic interest for the triangle between Crete, Kastellorizo and Cyprus,” he said.

Asked what could be the US and EU reaction to this agreement and how does it affect geopolitics in the region, Ellinas said both Washington and Brussels, and all other neighbouring countries in the East Med, recognise Cyprus’ and other countries’ rights to their EEZs declared in accordance to UNCLOS. He explained that as UNCLOS is not legally enforceable against a state that declines to sign and ratify it, the way to resolve this may eventually be through negotiations or arbitration on the basis of internationally recognised law and not through aggressive actions as Turkey is now pursuing.



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