A year after canceling the Keystone XL pipeline on his first day in office, and just weeks before Russia invaded Ukraine, disrupting natural gas supplies in Europe, President Joe Biden withdrew United States support from the planned EastMed pipeline that was being developed to send Israeli natural gas via Cyprus and Greece to southern Europe.
Under President Donald Trump, the United States had supported the project. With U.S. support Europe and Israel had hoped to bring the pipeline online by 2025.
The EastMed project is designed to deliver 20 billion cubic meters of dry natural gas from the offshore fields of Israel and Cyprus across Greece to Italy and Bulgaria.
Russia and Turkey had opposed the pipeline, and so now does the Biden administration.
This action stands in stark contrast to the Biden administration decision to lift sanctions on the Russian Nord Stream 2 pipeline to Europe that Trump had put in place, an action Biden reversed days after Russia invaded Ukraine.
EU Lauds EastMed
The European Union had previously given the 1,100-mile, $7 billion pipeline “Special Project” status, and the Trump administration had hailed it as a boon to European energy independence.
In 2013, the European Commission had designated the pipeline as a “Project of Common Interest” and invested heavily in technical, economic, and environmental studies.
In 2019, the energy ministers of Cyprus, Egypt, France, Greece, Israel, Italy, Jordan, and even the Palestinian Authority created the East Mediterranean Gas.
Congress passed a law in 2020, signed by Trump, creating a United States-Eastern Mediterranean Energy Center in support of the EastMed pipeline project.
Turkey and Russia objected.
Turkish President Recep Erdogan praised Biden’s reversal of U.S. policy on the pipeline. Since the project’s inception, Turkey has demanded Israeli gas must travel through Turkey to reach Europe.
Biden Hurts Allies
Joe Biden supported the EastMed pipeline as Vice President, and he should continue to support it today, says Shoshana Bryen, Senior Director at the Jewish Policy Center.
“While the US and its allies are in the midst of an energy crisis, the EastMed natural gas pipeline project has been caught in a web of conflicting security and energy policy in Europe and beyond,” said Bryen. “The Biden administration should quickly reverse its decision to withdraw support from an important project that would reduce future Russian leverage in European energy markets.”
Biden’s decision to withdraw support for the EastMed natural gas pipeline is undermining the energy and national security interests of Israel and our European allies, said two Greek-American members of Congress, Rep. Gus Bilirakis (R-FL) and Rep. Nicole Malliotakis (R-NY), in a harshly worded joint letter they sent to Secretary of State Anthony Blinken.
“We write in stark opposition to the Biden administration’s change of course on the EastMed pipeline project,” said Bilirakis and Malliotakis’ letter. “By undermining the EastMed project, the Biden administration undercuts our allies and their hopes for energy independence and economic prosperity.”
‘Reconsider … Decision to Withdraw’
Withdrawing from EastMed was a serious mistake and the decision should be reversed immediately, said Bilirakis and Malliotakis’ letter.
“We hope you and President Biden recognize the significant national security implications the United States and our European allies are facing because of European reliance on Russian gas,” the Rep’s wrote. “The EastMed project … is a viable alternative to the Nord Stream 2 and European dependence on Russian Gas.”
Both Bilarakis and Malliotakis issued separate statements discussing the important message contained in the letter and why they sent it.
“The Biden Administration’s actions in this matter are particularly objectionable and hypocritical in light of its tacit approval of Russia’s Nord Stream pipeline, which will only deepen Europe’s energy dependence on a volatile adversary,” said Bilirakis in a statement.
“President Biden’s decision to shut down America’s Keystone XL Pipeline, greenlight Putin’s Nord Stream 2 pipeline, and now disavow the Greek-Cypriot-Israeli EastMed Pipeline is a microcosm of this Administration’s failed energy and foreign policy agendas,” wrote Malliotakis on her Congressional webpage. “This President is asleep at the wheel, and his decision making could cause severe economic and national security consequences for America and our allies.”
Duggan Flanakin (email@example.com) writes from San Marcos, Texas.
Rep. Gus Bilirakis (R-FL): https://bilirakis.house.gov/; https://bilirakis.house.gov/zip-code-lookup?form=/contact/email