Mashreq Gas Market… Is it the Middle East Bridge to the EU?

Since the implementation flag of the Euro-Mashreq Gas Project signalized the debut, hopes and anticipations have been directed to this 6-million Euros project that will strengthen regional cooperation in channeling natural gas from Arab countries to Europe. But, will it fulfill the hopes of the Arab countries and EU?

With the aim of developing a strong regional gas industry, the Euro-Mashreq Gas Project has entered into an execution phase two years ago, in February 2006. Among its goals, this project is to reform and modernize the gas industry with emphasis on gas market and network development, strengthen the legal and regulatory framework, and transfer the “know how” and expertise to the administrations, institutions and companies of the Mashreq region.
More importantly, the project is expected to contribute to the integration of the gas markets of Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria, in view of creating a regional internal gas market to be integrated with the EU internal Gas Market. It is worth mention that these four countries have contributed with €1 million to fund the project.
Addressing a Euro-Mediterranean ministerial conference on energy in Limassol, Cyprus, last December, the Egyptian Minister of Petroleum Eng. Sameh Fahmy affirmed that Egypt is qualified to become an international economic commercial center for oil and gas by linking areas producing crude oil and gas in the Arab Gulf and the Mediterranean Sea to areas of consumption in Europe and the Far East, thanks to its strategic location.
A Euro-Arab Mashreq Gas Co-operation Centre is being established in Damascus, in January 206, with liaison offices in Cairo, Amman and Beirut. It carries the responsibility for promoting gas markets co-operation between Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria and between these countries and the EU, and for implementing the Euro-Arab Mashreq Gas Markets Project, expected to be completed by next October.
The Syrian Minister of Petroleum and Mineral Resources, Eng. Sufian Al-Alao said, “the development of our gas industry, creating links to other markets and especially the EU, are high priorities. This is an important project and it has my full support.”
This Centre will prepare a Gas Master Plan and Network Development Plan for the region, formulate recommendations for improving the legislative and regulatory framework for gas, and provide training and know-how transfer to people in the gas industry.
Moreover, it will enhance the process of exchanging information agreements between the Euro- Arab Mashreq Gas Cooperation Centre and EU Universities and/or similar institutions in addition to the improvement of the skills and knowledge about EU business and legislative practices of the staff in the beneficiary countries’ gas sector (public and private sector).
Frank Hesske, Head of the Delegation of the European Commission to Syria expressed his view concerning this project, stating that “the European Union has a long history of successful co-operation with the Governments of Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria.

“This project will have long term strategic benefits for the region and for the EU.”

Establishing the Mashreq Gas Market will push forward the security of energy supplies, clarified Fahmy. “In addition, Arab Gas Pipeline project is considered one of the most significant mechanisms to establish an interconnected Mashreq gas market,” he added.
Last November, the EU and the Government of Egypt organized a Ministerial level EU-Africa-Middle East Energy Conference, which was held at Sharm El Sheikh. The participants exchanged information on common energy policy challenges and discussed policy responses. Initiatives to enhance energy cooperation were discussed, including the extension of this Project and its possible replication in other areas. Press reports from the Conference indicated that Egypt and Iraq will supply gas to the EU through the Arab Gas Pipeline in 2008.

By Yomna Bassiouni


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