Washington.- By Apostolos Zoupaniotis/CNA
The “Eastern Mediterranean Security and Energy Partnership” bill, which has been tabled at the Senate by Democrat Robert Menendez and Republican Mark Rubio, and in the House by Republican Costas Bilirakis and Democrat David Sicilline, will be voted into an Act by the Congress by December 20.
Details of the bill were given late on Monday. The Eastern Mediterranean Security and Energy Partnership is included in the final package of the bill on appropriations.
The House plenary is expected to vote on the bill in two sections, on Tuesday and Wednesday, and the Senate will follow. The whole procedure should be wrapped up by December 20 and be signed by Friday evening by President Donald Trump. Over the next couple of days, the Senate is also expected to approve the budget on national defence, which includes provisions for the lifting of the arms embargo on the Republic of Cyprus.
The Act authorizes to be appropriated for fiscal year 2021 up to $3,000,000 for Foreign Military Financing (FMF) assistance for Greece to assist the country in meeting its commitment as a member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) to dedicate 20 percent of its defence budget to enhance research and development.
Furthermore, there is authorized to be appropriated $1,300,000 for fiscal year 2020, $1,500,000 for fiscal year 2021, and $1,800,000 for fiscal year 2022 for International Military Education and Training (IMET) assistance for Greece and $200,000 for fiscal year 2020, $500,000 for fiscal year 2021, and $750,000 for fiscal year 2022 for such assistance for the Republic of Cyprus.
In the findings, it is noted that the security of partners and allies in the Eastern Mediterranean region is critical to the security of the United States and Europe. It is added that Greece is a valuable member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and a key pillar of stability in the Eastern Mediterranean; Israel is a steadfast ally of the United States and has been designated a ‘‘major non-NATO ally’’ and ‘‘major strategic partner’’; and Cyprus is a key strategic partner and signed a Statement of Intent with the United States on November 6, 2018, to enhance bilateral security cooperation.
It refers to the participation of Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in the trilateral summit among Israel, Greece, and Cyprus on March 20, 2019, and notes that the United States, Israel, Greece, and Cyprus oppose any action in the Eastern Mediterranean and the Aegean Sea that could challenge stability, violate international law, or undermine good neighbourly relations, and in a joint declaration on March 21, 2019, agreed to ‘‘defend against external malign influences in the Eastern Mediterranean and the broader Middle East’’.
REPORTS ON INTERFERENCE
The Act states that, not later than 90 days after the date of the enactment of this Act, the Secretary of State, in consultation with the Secretary of Defence and the Secretary of Energy, shall submit to the appropriate congressional committees a report listing incidents since January 15, 2017, determined by the Secretary of State to interfere in efforts by the Republic of Cyprus to explore and exploit natural resources in its Exclusive Economic Zone.
Furthermore, the Act states that, not later than 90 days after the date of the enactment of this Act, the Secretary of State, in consultation with the Secretary of Defence, shall submit to the appropriate congressional committees a report listing incidents since January 1, 2017, determined by the Secretary of State to be violations of the airspace of the sovereign territory of Greece by its neighbours.
The report required under subsection (a) shall be submitted in unclassified form, but may contain a classified annex.
REPORT ON RUSSIAN INFLUENCE
Another report required from the Secretary of State concerns Russian influence on Cyprus, Greece and Israel, since January 1, 2017.
The elements to be included in the report are:
(1) An assessment of security, political, and energy goals of the Russian Federation in the Eastern Mediterranean.
(2) A description of energy projects of the Government of the Russian Federation in the Eastern Mediterranean.
(3) A listing of Russian national ownership of media outlets in these countries, including the name of the media outlet, approximate viewership, and assessment of whether the outlet promotes pro-Kremlin views.
(4) An assessment of military engagement by the Government of the Russian Federation in the security sector, including engagement by military equipment and personnel contractors.
(5) An assessment of efforts supported by the Government of the Russian Federation to influence elections in the three countries, through the use of cyber attacks, social media campaigns, or other malign influence techniques.
(6) An assessment of efforts by the Government of the Russian Federation to intimidate and influence the decision by His All Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, leader of 300,000,000 Orthodox Christians worldwide, to grant autocephaly to the Ukrainian Orthodox Church.
The Act says that “the Secretary of State, in coordination with the Secretary of Energy, may enter into cooperative agreements supporting and enhancing dialogue and planning involving international partnerships between the United States and Israel, Greece, and the Republic of Cyprus.”
If the Secretary of State, in coordination with the Secretary of Energy, enters into agreements authorized under subsection (a), the Secretary shall submit an annual report to the appropriate congressional committees that describes— (1) actions taken to implement such agreements; and (2) any projects undertaken pursuant to such agreements.
The Secretary of Energy, in coordination with the Secretary of State, may establish a joint United States-Eastern Mediterranean Energy Center in the United States leveraging the experience, knowledge, and expertise of institutions of higher education and entities in the private sector, among others, in offshore energy development to further dialogue and collaboration to develop more robust academic cooperation in energy innovation technology and engineering, water science, technology transfer, and analysis of emerging geopolitical implications, which include opportunities as well as crises and threats from foreign natural resource and energy acquisitions.
Not later than 90 days after the date of the enactment of this Act, the Secretary of State, in consultation with the Secretary of Defence and the Secretary of Energy, shall submit to the appropriate congressional committees a strategy on enhanced security and energy cooperation with countries in the Eastern Mediterranean region, including Israel, the Republic of Cyprus, and Greece.
The report must include:
(1) A description of United States participation in and support for the Eastern Mediterranean Natural Gas Forum.
(2) An evaluation of all possible delivery mechanisms into Europe for natural gas discoveries in the Eastern Mediterranean region.
(3) An evaluation of efforts to protect energy exploration infrastructure in the region, including infrastructure owned or operated by United States companies.
(4) An assessment of the capacity of the Republic of Cyprus to host an Energy Crisis Center in the region which could provide basing facilities in support of search and rescue efforts in the event of an accident.
(5) An assessment of the timing of potential natural gas delivery in the region as well as an assessment of the ultimate destination countries for the natural gas delivery from the region.
(6) A plan to work with United States businesses seeking to invest in Eastern Mediterranean energy exploration, development, and cooperation.