Cyprus, one of the smallest countries in the European Union, says it is keen to attract investments from Asia including Asean for its growing offshore natural gas exploration and production industry.
The EU could learn from Asia about how it recovered from the 1997-98 crisis, says Cyprus Foreign Minister Erato Kozakou-Marcoullis.
“There have been some companies from this region such as Petronas which has been investing in this sector and more could participate in the near future,” Foreign Minister Erato Kozakou-Marcoullis told Asia Focus.
Cyprus, which traditionally has relied on its strength of its shipping industry, is gradually diversifying its economy by tapping into the growth of demand for energy across the world, and especially the surge of demand in Asia.
“We have 13 [gas exploration] blocks, out of which we gave one to a Texas-based company and we are in discussion for another four blocks, with some conclusion likely by the end of this year,” the minister said, stressing that Asian companies should look at possibilities in exploration and production in the future for the remaining blocks.
“To put it in perspective, it is estimated that the whole region has about 350 trillion cubic feet of natural gas that can be tapped,” she said.
The reserves, if all proved, would be 30 times larger than the best estimates of reserves in Myanmar, which is the key supplier of natural gas to Thailand.
“There is a huge prospect for those who invest,” she stressed while on a short stopover at Suvarnabhumi airport after the Asean Europe meeting in Laos.
Ms Kozakou-Marcoullis said it was time for the cooperation between Asia and Europe to be strengthened further, adding that the EU could learn lessons from how Asia emerged stronger after its crisis in the late 1990s.
During the ASEM meeting in Vientiane there was open and frank discussion on the issues facing the EU and also on ways of promoting investment and trade between the regions, she said. However, she acknowledged that it would take some time before a more intense and deeper relationship between the regions takes shape.
“This is a very young organisation of 16 years, and there is still time for it to develop into deeper cooperation,” she said.
Ms Kozakou-Marcoullis added that one promising area for cooperation in the near future could be greater mobility of the two regions’ highly qualified professionals which would help promote innovation and research on both sides.
“There are some economies in this part of the world that went through rough times but today are large trading partners with the EU,” she said.
One of the biggest problems with the EU currently is the weakened financial system, which is being rectified under the current presidency of Cyprus, she said.
The EU currently needs fiscal discipline to keep countries from going further into recession although some have balanced budgets which have helped them keep their heads above water she added.
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Writer: Umesh Pandey