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Israel, Greece and Cyprus sign a new agreement to connect their electricity grids via submarine cables

The project, which will implement a cable connecting the grids of the three countries, will cost more than 755 million euros
Atalayar_Energía Israel

PHOTO/REUTERS  -   Leviathan natural gas field, in the Mediterranean Sea, off the coast of Haifa, Israel

The governments of Israel, Greece and Cyprus have reached an agreement to launch an agreement that will establish the world's longest submarine electricity cable, more than 1,000 kilometres long. The cable, which will have a capacity of up to 2,000 megawatts, will have a maximum depth of 2,700 metres. The project will cost three billion Israeli shekels - just over 755 million euros - and is expected to be launched in the coming months, with the aim of completing the first phase before the end of 2025.

The project, dubbed the "Euro-Asia Interconnector", was signed in the Cypriot capital, Nicosia, by Cypriot energy minister Natasa Pilides and her Israeli counterpart Yuval Steinitz, in a video conference with Greece's Kostas Skrekas. Pilides was responsible for giving details of the agreement, although in joint statements, the three representatives affirmed that the programme constitutes a "major step forward" in the integration of renewable energy resources. A project recognised by the European Commission as being of "common interest" and therefore eligible for European Union (EU) funding. The initiative will strengthen "the ability of the three countries to meet their commitments under the Paris Agreement," the ministers added.

Yuval Steinitz said the agreement will allow Israel to "receive electricity from mainland European electricity grids in case of emergency". The Cyprus minister said that this new wiring should serve as a vehicle for strengthening Europe's "energy security". She also stressed that the project represents a major step forward in terms of Cypriot isolation, as it was, until now, the only country in the whole of the EU that was not interconnected, and that they would thus lose some dependence on heavy fuels. According to Pilides, it was "a major obstacle to the overall competitiveness" of the country's economy. 

Atalayar_Central Eléctrica
PHOTO/REUTERS - Israel's private, gas-fired power plant from the Tamar field

The same three countries have been at the centre of an agreement on the "COVID passport". Israel already has more than 40 per cent of its population vaccinated and 75 per cent of those over 60 have received both doses. As early as January, Benjamin Netanyahu's government began handing out so-called "vaccination certificates".

On 8 February, Israel signed an agreement with the same countries with which it is now entering into a new pact. On that occasion it did so in order to allow citizens of the three countries to travel freely between their territories. However, it is not yet known when the measure will come into force, but only when "a significant percentage of the population has been vaccinated". The main objective of this policy is to reactivate the economy during the upcoming summer tourism season. The aim is to avoid people crossing the borders of any of these three countries having to present a negative PCR test, nor to pass a preventive quarantine.

The document that will allow Israeli citizens to enter Greek and Cypriot lands consists of a QR code that condenses all the health information to be subsequently incorporated into a smart phone. This certificate is valid for six months and is activated one week after receiving the second dose of the Pfizer and BioNTech vaccine, which are the only two that have so far been inoculated in Israel. 

Atalayar_Yuval Steinitz
AP/AMIR NABIL - Israel's Minister of Energy, Yuval Steinitz

Recovering tourism is vital for all three countries, especially for Greece and Cyprus, as it accounts for 21.5% and 22.7% of each country's Gross Domestic Product respectively. For Israel, although not as important, it also represents a large part of its GDP, accounting for 6.2 per cent. The Israeli Foreign Ministry maintains that the implementation of the agreement is linked to the evolution of the pandemic which, in view of the continuous strains emerging around the world, is still uncertain.

Netanyahu's government is working to extend this agreement to more countries, including the Seychelles and Georgia, which have already reached an agreement to accept Israeli health documents. This list also includes the United Kingdom, Serbia, Romania and Estonia, with which, according to The Times of Israel, initial contacts have already been made to bring them closer together.

As far as the European Union is concerned, there is still no clear idea of how to apply this type of policy to speed up the process of returning to normality. As a large number of EU countries are calling for, Spain is committed to a vaccination card that would make it possible for vaccinated people to transit, although the debate in Europe is still open.