A year of challenges and decisions

Ioannis Kotoulas
Tuesday 18 Jan 2022

Egypt and Greece continue to face serious challenges in the Mediterranean region that need to be effectively addressed in 2022, writes Ioannis E Kotoulas

Historical time has accelerated at a great pace over the last few years, shattering previous illusions of immutable international stability and predictability. 

Regional tensions have climaxed on the periphery of the Eurasian landmass from Eastern Europe and Ukraine to the Caucasus and East Asia, while the Mediterranean has gained increased strategic importance. 

Egypt and Greece have made great progress in upgrading their national strength and regional influence, while they deal with serious external challenges. But these two focal states and ancient nations of the Mediterranean continue to face serious challenges that need to be effectively addressed in 2022.

Egypt’s growing strength and influence are evident in the Mediterranean, the Arab world, and Africa. In the Mediterranean, the 2020 Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) Agreement between Egypt and Greece is a partial demarcation agreement that needs to be completed by a new Egyptian-Greek agreement. 

Egypt is now a major energy hub in the Mediterranean for gas production, and it can become a trustworthy provider in addressing European energy concerns. Greece is a self-evident intermediary transit route for transporting Egyptian gas to European markets. Diplomatic and energy initiatives in these issues would signal the decisiveness of both states to move their already close cooperation forward. 

In Libya on the other hand, the situation is rapidly deteriorating, requiring Egypt’s stabilising influence. The Libyan elections have been postponed, and the de facto division of the country aided by the external interference of Turkey has produced a black hole in the North Africa and Mediterranean security framework. 

Ethiopia has also not backed down from its provocative stance on the building of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD), and recent internal conflicts in Ethiopia highlight the deadlock in the oppressive Ethiopian regime. Ethiopia can no longer act unilaterally with regard to the water of the Nile. Concluding a deal with Egypt and Sudan to safeguard effective access to the Nile’s water is necessary for Ethiopia to prove its commitment to regional stability.

Greece faces Turkish threats in the shape of a casus belli ultimatum that has been present since June 1995 and still has not been revoked, contrary to the principles of international law. Turkey is still not abiding by the 2016 deal between the EU and Turkey to curb migration flows towards the EU, and it is irritated by Greece’s strengthening of its air force and navy and its close ties with Egypt and the US.

Turkey remains an agent of instability in the Mediterranean. Turkish overtures towards Egypt are half-hearted and insincere, the result of a seriously worsening internal economy and isolation on a regional level that reached its climax in 2021. 

If Turkey hopes to normalise its bilateral relations with both Egypt and Greece, it has to assume meaningful initiatives. These would include, but be not limited to, ceasing its support for the terrorist Muslim Brotherhood group regarding Egypt, withdrawing from Libya, and accepting Greece’s right to extend its territorial waters to 12 miles according to international law.

Finally, a new field of tension and external interference surfaced in late December that is closely related to both Egypt and Greece and their respective national interests. The ancient Patriarchate of Alexandria and All Africa is facing disruptive moves by the Russian Orthodox Church, which for the first time has decided to fund schismatic ecclesiastical structures in the continent of Africa by creating an African Exarchate. 

The ancient Patriarchate of Alexandria, a venerable Egyptian institution, has worked tirelessly to carry out humanitarian work in Egypt and Africa, and its integrity and unity benefits Egypt, a state which is the natural leader not only of the Arab world but also of Africa as well.

This year will see decisive actions and dedicated cooperation between states shape the geopolitical equilibrium of the region for decades to come. It is a year that will see recurring security challenges and one when firm decisions must be taken on the part of Egypt and Greece, and also on the part of the EU, to safeguard stability in the Mediterranean, Libya, and Africa.

* The writer is a lecturer in geopolitics at the University of Athens in Greece.

*A version of this article appears in print in the 20 January, 2022 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly.

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