Deal agreed for EastMed undersea gas pipeline to Europe

The race for offshore energy deposits in the southern Mediterranean has created tensions between Greece and Cyprus, on the one side, and rival Turkey. Ankara has raised the stakes with claims to areas under Greek control. (AFP)
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Updated 02 January 2020

Deal agreed for EastMed undersea gas pipeline to Europe

  • The 1,900 km EastMed pipeline has a budget of $6 billion

ATHENS: The leaders of Greece, Israel and Cyprus met in Athens on Thursday to sign a deal for an undersea pipeline that would carry gas from new offshore deposits in the southeastern Mediterranean to continental Europe.

The 1,900 km EastMed pipeline is intended to provide an alternative gas source for energy-hungry Europe, which is currently largely dependent on supplies from Russia and the Caucasus region.

As now designed, the pipeline would run from Israel’s Levantine Basin offshore gas reserves to Cyprus, Crete and the Greek mainland. An overland pipeline to northwestern Greece and another planned undersea pipeline would carry the gas to Italy.

The project, with a rough budget of $6 billion, is expected to satisfy about 10 percent of the EU’s natural gas needs. But it also is fraught with political and logistical complexities.

The race to claim offshore energy deposits in the southern Mediterranean has created new tensions between Greece and Cyprus, on the one side, and historic rival Turkey.

Ankara has raised the stakes with recent moves to explore waters controlled by the two EU member countries. Cyprus and Greece are particularly disturbed Turkey sent warship-escorted drill ships into waters where Cyprus has exclusive economic rights.

Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades said the EastMed pipeline, while not aimed against Turkey, affirms that Greece and Cyprus hold sovereign rights to the waters they control.

Anastasiades, Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu were to meet in Athens to sign an agreement on building the pipeline.

Before departing for the Greek capital, Netanyahu said the three countries have established ”an alliance of great importance” that would bolster regional stability and turn Israel ”into an energy powerhouse.”

Israeli Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz has said the EastMed pipeline would take up to seven years to build and that its advantages include being less vulnerable to sabotage and not crossing many national borders to reach markets.

Anastasiades said in an New Year’s Day interview with Cyprus’ Phileleftheros newspaper that the construction agreement’s signing “sends messages in every direction.”

“Especially under current conditions, it demonstrates the strong political will of the countries involved, as well as the European Union, that they don’t accept Turkey’s unlawful actions,” Anastasiades said.

Cyprus is divided into a Greek Cypriot south, where the island nation’s internationally recognized government is located, and a breakaway Turkish Cypriot north backed by Turkey. The split followed a 1974 Turkish invasion after an aborted coup aiming to bring Cyprus under Greek rule.

Turkey is also laying claim to large tracts under Greek control in the Aegean Sea and off the Greek island of Crete.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has said that no project can proceed without his country’s consent following a maritime border agreement that Ankara signed with the Libya’s Tripoli-based government.

The Cypriot government has licensed Italian energy company Eni, France’s Total, ExxonMobil and Texas-based Noble Energy to carry out exploratory hydrocarbons drilling in the country’s offshore economic zone.


Saudi labor force figures on the rise before pandemic

Updated 08 July 2020

Saudi labor force figures on the rise before pandemic

  • Trend driven by increase in female employment, but second quarter data will reveal impact of virus on jobs

RIYADH: Saudi unemployment dipped below 12 percent in the first quarter for the first time in four years — but the government data does not reflect the impact of the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic.

The Labor Force Survey published by the General Authority of Statistics (GASTAT), which was conducted in January 2020, before the pandemic, showed that the total unemployment rate amounted to 5.7 percent in the first quarter, unchanged compared to the first quarter of the previous year.

Regional economies have been hit by the double whammy of the coronavirus and weak oil prices which has forced major employers to lay off staff throughout the Gulf and led to the departure of thousands of expatriate workers.

Last week the International Labor Organization warned the outlook for the global jobs market in the second half of 2020 was “highly uncertain” and that employment was unlikely to return to pre-pandemic levels this year. 

“The estimates have revised upwards considerably the damage done to our labor markets by the pandemic,” said Guy Ryder, ILO director-general.

The Saudi unemployment rate decreased to 11.8 percent in the first quarter of 2020, from 12.5 percent the same period in 2019, and compared to 12 percent in the last quarter of 2019. 

The figures also reflect an increase in the total labor force participation rate to 58.2 percent in the first three months of 2020, a jump of 1.8 percentage points compared to the same period in 2019.

GASTAT said that the stability in the unemployment rate and the increase of labor force participation rate were due to the increase in the number of employees in the survey.

That trend was driven by a decrease in the Saudi female unemployment rate that stood at 28.2 percent in the first quarter of 2020, 2.7 percentage points lower than the last quarter in 2019. 

Meanwhile the Saudi male unemployment rate rose to 5.6 percent, 0.6 percentage points higher than the rate of last quarter in 2019.

The statistics show that there are almost 9.98 million people in employment across the public and private sectors.

About 3.2 million of them are Saudis. The figures exclude workers in the security and military sectors. 

The data also reveal that there are 3.66 million domestic workers in the country, all of them non-Saudis.

The labor market statistics are compiled from two main sources. The first is the labor force survey, which is a household survey that is carried out by GASTAT and provides the most important indicators of the labor market, such as the unemployment and labor force participation rates.

The second source is administrative data which is recorded and updated by government agencies related to the labor market.