The Government aims at turning Cyprus into a regional energy hub, Minister of Commerce, Industry and Tourism Neoclis Sylikiotis said on Monday, while referring to actions taken at EU level to secure the bloc’s energy supply and set ambitious targets in the fields of energy and climate change.

Sylikiotis was addressing a conference, in Nicosia, on “Energy Security in the EU”, organized by the European Parliament Office in Cyprus and Greece and the Ministry of Commerce, Industry and Tourism.

The Minister said that Cyprus was working towards the goal, set by the EU, to lift the energy isolation of the member states by 2015 and referred to a draft regulation that has been recently adopted by the European Commission, setting out the guidelines on the development of transeuropean energy infrastructure.

As Sylikiotis said, the draft regulation sets a number of transeuropean energy corridors and priority zones, concerning electricity and gas networks and prioritizes twelve particular infrastructure projects of strategic importance, which need to be completed by 2020.

Cyprus is included in two of these natural gas corridors and one electricity corridor, along with other member states, the Minister went on. He added that this draft regulation comprises one of the highest priorities of the Cypriot EU Presidency, due in second half of the year.

“Our goal is the successful conclusion of negotiations, both among member states in the Council of the EU, as well as between the European Council and the European Parliament” Sylikiotis said.

He noted that the benefits for Cyprus from the adoption and implementation of this regulation are identical with those that will incur for the rest of the EU.

The Minister finally said that Cyprus and the wider Southeastern Mediterranean region aspires to become an alternative energy source, feeding EU energy demands and noted that energy infrastructure ought to be developed in serving this goal.

MEP Eleni Theocharous, while addressing the conference, said that Cyprus should raise an “energy shield” around it, which would guard the country from Turkey’s threats. She also noted that Cyprus should enter into a strategic cooperation with Greece and Israel on energy matters, and talked about the need to pair Cyprus-Russian interests in the field.

Turkey, whose troops occupy Cyprus’ northern part since they invaded in 1974, does not recognise the Republic of Cyprus. Following a decision by Nicosia to begin natural gas and oil exploration in its exclusive economic zone last September, Ankara has deployed warships in the Eastern Mediterranean and has signed an illegal agreement with the Turkish Cypriot regime in occupied Cyprus to delineate what it calls continental shelf.

The government of Cyprus has protested to the UN and the EU Turkey’s moves, saying it has a sovereign right to exploit its natural resources.

The Cypriot MEP said that Greece ought to have delineated its Exclusive Economic Zone a long time ago, including the remote island of Kastelorizo, close to the southwestern coast of Turkey and noted that in this case, cooperation with Israel was essential.

“Greece and Cyprus can provide Israel with the strategic depth it needs”, Theocharous said, adding that cooperation in energy matters can provide a catalyst for the solution of political problems in Cyprus and the Middle East.

The MEP further said she expected Turkey to escalate tension in the region, in view of the upcoming Cyprus EU Presidency and energy developments.

The goal is Cyprus to become an indispensable energy provider for the EU, the MEP went on, adding that Nicosia would avert blackmailing practices by neighboring countries if it could assume this role in a credible manner.

Cyprus Energy Regulation Authority Vice President Constantinos Eliopoulos said from his part that energy production in Cyprus suffered a major blow last summer, with the blast incident at Mari, near Limassol, but noted that the country would be able to meet energy demands the coming summer, based on energy production units stationed at the government-controlled areas of the Republic if Cyprus.

He also spoke of the need to import natural gas to Cyprus the soonest possible, for use in lower-cost energy production, and said that in case there will be a delay in the arrival of Cypriot gas, alternative solutions should be considered.

Dean of the University of Cyprus Engineering School Panos Papanastasiou talked moreover on the security and environmental aspects of drilling activities and noted that Cypriot MEPs should press the EU to implement stricter rules towards this aim.

Piraeus University assistant professor Nikolaos Farantouris said the EU started to develop a European energy policy only after ascribing energy matters to the EU’s shared competence with the Lisbon Treaty.

Director of the Greek Public Power Corporation (DEI) Quantum Energy George Killas said the completion of the 450-nautical-mile Israel-Cyprus-Greece submarine cable, at a depth of 2,000 metres, would be a technical and political challenge of historical importance for the future of Israel, Cyprus, Greece and the EU, noting that the project would act as an energy bridge between Asia and Europe.

The conference was addressed by the Head of the European Parliament Office in Cyprus Tasos Georgiou, who spoke about the role of the European Parliament in energy matters.

It was furthermore addressed by Director of the Hellenic Gas Transmission System Operator (DESFA) George Paparsenos, who presented the strategy and prospects of DESFA, European Parliament Spokeswoman Christina Antigoni Elefterie, who referred to the proposed Directive for energy efficiency, and Cyprus' Environment Commissioner Charalambos Theopemptou, who focused on the case of Cyprus regarding the acquis communautaire concerning energy efficiency.

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