The year behind us was one of important milestones and crucial developments. We are living in times of mounting historical change. The great geopolitical and economic upheaval in Europe with the war in Ukraine has created new realities concerning energy security and regional cooperation with short- and long-term negative consequences. Egypt and Greece have already understood the need for dynamic measures.
Egypt and Greece made great progress in 2022 in various fields, economic, diplomatic, and military, upgrading their national strength and regional influence while also dealing with serious external challenges such as the post-Covid turbulence of the global economy and the repercussions of the upheaval in global supply chains due to the war in Ukraine. An overview of events in the past year shows the new spirit in foreign policy demonstrated by the Egyptian and Greek governments.
In February, Egypt’s Telecom Egypt and Greece’s Grid Telecom signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to connect the two countries through a submarine cable system. In June, they signed an agreement for an extension.
In October, Egypt and Greece reaffirmed their joint position that the outgoing Libyan Government of National Unity (GNU) was not entitled to sign international deals after the latter signed economic and maritime deals with Turkey. In November, they signed a MoU on aeronautic and maritime search and rescue and an agreement on the employment of seasonal workers in the agricultural sector. In December, Egypt demarcated its sea borders to the west by presidential directive and according to the provisions of the 2020 Egyptian-Greek Agreement for the partial demarcation of their respective Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZs).
Throughout 2022, Egypt and Greece participated in joint military exercises, such as Hercules-2 in August and MENA-II and Medusa 12 in November.
These two focal states, representing the two most ancient peoples of the Mediterranean, can increase their geopolitical footprint through further initiatives in 2023. As Eastern Europe and the Black Sea, once important energy corridors, have become zones of instability and heightened tension, the Mediterranean could become a substitute for energy procurement towards the EU, with Egypt’s role as an exporter of natural gas and solar energy being essential in this context.
Egypt’s international importance was evident in its successful hosting of the UN COP27 Climate Conference in Sharm El-Sheikh in November. As Al-Ahram Weekly Chief Editor Ezzat Ibrahim acutely observed in an article in the paper at the end of last year, the conference “demonstrated that the need for the governments of the industrialised countries to adopt measures to expand the production of clean and renewable energy is remaining unmet in the light of the global scramble to obtain fossil fuels and the unwillingness to abandon them in the near future.” Clean and renewable energy will be an essential part of the energy mix in future.
In 2023, Egypt and Greece could move forward on a series of initiatives. First, they could continue contacts aiming at the full delimitation of their national EEZs with a view to producing an agreement that would help to stabilise the Mediterranean. Second, the East Mediterranean Gas Forum (EMGF), an important energy framework spearheaded by Egypt, could begin to evolve into a diplomatic network that would safeguard the energy interests of its members and regional stability.
Third, in view of the continuing instability in Libya, diplomatic coordination between Egypt and Greece could lead to an initiative to overcome the political deadlock in the country. Fourth, Greece could lead an EU initiative in line with Egyptian security concerns to address the issue of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) and exert pressure on Ethiopia to agree on a reasonable deal with Egypt.
Finally, Egypt and Greece could enhance the cooperation between their respective air forces, thus allowing them to obtain experience in varied terrains and operational environments.
The geopolitical landscape of 2023 is dominated by the war in Ukraine and other ongoing conflicts. The Mediterranean states need to continue the dynamic and pro-active international initiatives that are transforming the Mediterranean into a focal point of geopolitics.
* The writer is a lecturer in geopolitics at the University of Athens in Greece.
* A version of this article appears in print in the 5 January, 2023 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly