Evripidis Stylianidis, Secretary of Governmental Program of N.D. Party
Exclusive Economic Zone: The Blue Line of the Greek Foreign Policy
08. September 2011. | 06:30 08:48
Author: Dr. Evripidis Stylianidis
In conclusion the question is how and when Greece will decide to make effective use of the “new tools” that International Law provides against a Turkey that constantly creates new issues, with the purpose of preventing the application of International Maritime Law to the Aegean and South Mediterranean areas?
1. The United Nations New Maritime Law
In 1982 new facts were created regarding Maritime Law with the United Nations (UN) Treaty of Montego Bay (Jamaica). The concepts of: Coastal Zone (CZ) or Territorial Waters, Bordering or Adjacent Zone and the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), were redefined. On April 30 of 1982 in New York, 130 states voted in favor of the new Treaty, 17 were abstained and 4 voted against it (among them Turkey).
The new UN Treaty of Maritime Law (UNLOSC) was put in affect on November 16 1994 and replaced four earlier Treaties. By the end of 2008 the Treaty was ratified by 157 countries (Cyprus on December 12 1988 and Greece on July 21 1995).
One basic innovation of the new Treaty was that of the EEZ. Articles 56 and 57 defined the rights, obligations and jurisdictions of the Coastal States, as well as their extent of the zone, which can reach up to 200 miles of the coastline.
The new characteristic of the EEZ compared to the CZ is the ability to take advantage of all natural resources (living or not) not only to the seabed and the subsoil, but also to the surface of the sea.
Furthermore, importance should be given to article 121 par. Z, which recognizes EEZ to islands and is defined the same way as that of the mainland areas.
In the EEZ space the coastal state benefits from natural resources, fishery, wind and water produced energy, subsoil and other. It can create artificial islets and other constructions. The rights of other states regarding free passage of ships, flights over international airspace and the placing of submarine cables are preserved in accordance to International Law, as long as they do not threaten the security of the coastal state.
The right for an EEZ is given only to the islands that inhabit life, for instance a family, a lighthouse keeper, pets, farms or whatever else can provide evidence of economic activity. For all other islands or rocky-islets the regulation of the 12 nautical miles of the Coastal Zone is applied.
The arrangement of the EEZ that is usually practiced when the distance is less than 400 miles between the coastal lines of states is that of the “middle line” and presupposes a valid agreement. If such an agreement can not be reached, then similarly to issues regarding the Coastal Zone, organizations and/or other mechanisms of resolving international disputes (like for example the International Court of Justice) can play the role of the arbitrator.
There are two different views on whether the concept of the EEZ eradicates that of the Coastal Zone. The first view supports that the concept of the EEZ has surpassed that of the CZ and therefore it can resolve all bilateral issues with Turkey, as long as Greece takes the case to the International Court of Justice. Such a move would eliminate the 12 miles Casus Belli threat, the supposed “grey areas” of the Aegean Sea and the Coastal Zone issue. This view is supported by Dr. Kariotis, who is a professor of Maryland University in the subject of Maritime Law and also a member of the Greek delegation team in the relevant UN Conference.
The other view, which is supported by A. Peponis in a published article on “Epikaira” magazine (26/01/2011) stresses that the EEZ can not be established by a unilateral act and therefore requires Turkey’s participation in the process.
Mr. Peponis claims are not inaccurate; they simply represent the typical actuality. However the arguments of Dr. Kariotis emphasize in the political and diplomatic dynamic that can be advanced in favor of the Greek Rights and Interests, through a clever, daring and responsible management of the Greek Government.
2. Turkish Tactics
Turkey recognizes that the path of International Law and Maritime Law will lead it to a dead end. For this reason it chooses different ways of conduct; that of threatening, hiding, denying and/or exercising selective diplomacy:
• Threatening with war (Casus Belli) in the case that Greece makes use of its legal and sovereign rights; for example to expand its Territorial Waters to 12 miles.
• Hiding from a dialogue with specific rules and an agenda regarding the EEZ and the CZ, aiming to belligerently create new issues; for example “grey areas” even for populated islands like Agathonisi, or by disputing whether Kastelorizo island belongs to the Aegean Sea even though it is clearly stated to do so in the Italian-Turkish Agreement.
• Denying to sign and ratify the new UN Treaty of Maritime Law, to recognize bilateral or international agreements, to accept the terms of the European Statute that the New Treaty (UNLOSC) is part of.
• Exercising selective diplomacy; 1) When in favor of its interests, like in the case of the Black Sea, Turkey established an EEZ with Bulgaria, Romania and former USSR. While in the case of the Aegean and the Mediterranean Seas it refuses to do so, something that also explains its negative reaction to the EEZ that Cyprus established. 2) When it recognizes different Territorial Waters; 12 in the case of the Mediterranean and Black Sea, but only 6 in the case of the Aegean Sea.
3. The Cyprus Model
On December 12 1988, Cyprus ratified the new Treaty of the Maritime Law. On February 2003 it signed an agreement of establishing the EEZ with Egypt, on January 2007 with Lebanon and on December 2010 with Israel. Earlier, on February 2007 it had begun submitting applications of permission for the exploration and exploitation of Hydrocarbon Resources.
Although Turkey had taken similar steps in the Black Sea, in the case of the Mediterranean on 13/11/2008 reacted by harassing (with its warships) an exploration vessel of a Norwegian Company with Panamanian flag that was conducting searches on behalf of the Cypriot Government for oil resources, 27 miles south of the Island and inside the Cypriot EEZ.
It is worth noticing that the United Kingdom recognized the rights of the Cypriot EEZ in the whole area of the island, as was clearly stated by British High Commissioner in Cyprus Peter Millet in the newspaper ‘Politis’ (14/12/2008), a position that validates Tassos Papadopoulos accomplishment.
4. The Greek Dimension of the EEZ: a fair and clever strategy
If we accept Dr. Kariotis position and even though the settlement of the Greek EEZ might not be achievable in a unilateral manner, nonetheless it is certain that it would internationally strengthen our position and add arguments to our Foreign Policy.
The Greek EEZ combined with the issue of the CZ, shapes the new “Blue Lines” of our Foreign Policy:
• It demonstrates the two faced Turkish diplomacy and its defiance to the UN International Maritime Law.
• It illustrates Turkey’s disobedience in accepting the European Statute, whose essential part is the new UN International Treaty of Maritime Law.
• It overcomes the Casus Belli threat regarding the expansion of the Territorial Waters to 12 miles, since the internationally accepted concept of the EEZ surpasses the issue and facilitates the resolution of the CZ especially for islands, because the institutional structure becomes clear and is not only shaped by Hague ruling.
• It constructs a unified economic space with Cyprus and Israel, Egypt and Libya, Italy and Albania something that upgrades Greece’s position in geostrategic, economical, developmental and energy (through underwater pipelines) terms.
In conclusion the question is how and when our country will decide to make effective use of the “new tools” that International Law provides against a Turkey that constantly creates new issues, with the purpose of preventing the application of International Maritime Law to the Aegean and South Mediterranean areas?
5. New Democracy and the Strategy of Direct Rapprochement
New Democracy had begun its contacts for the settlement of the EEZ with Libya and Egypt; capitalizing on the positive response of those states.
The question after the recent developments in North Africa is how the government of Mr. Papandreou will give the sense of continuity to this effort? In the past PASOK did not make use of its good relations with Mr. Kaddafi and Mr. Mubarak. Did it at least now, negotiate in a contributory manner the significant supportive role that Greece played to the military ventures of our allies in Libya?
Equally important for New Democracy was the settlement of the EEZ with Italy that previously had an agreement with Greece on the Coastal Zone issue. Similar attempts were made with Albania and although progress had been made, in the latest period the effort has frozen due to Turkish deterrent diplomacy.
New Democracy observed the international decisions and started a similar effort to what 140 coastal states have practiced so far, to settle the EEZ with Egypt, Libya, Italy and Albania, leaving aside the settlement with Cyprus and Turkey. The continuation and a positive outcome of this effort would pressure bilaterally and internationally Turkey to unite with International Law and synchronize with European Statute; given that Turkey still wants to keep its European prospect energetic and up to the point that Greece can assist in such a process.
Even if someday the proper conditions do form, for a partnership with the Turks in the Aegean (as some claim), the status of our National sovereignty must be unquestionably clear, in order for this venture to have a clear cut trading character.
6. The Importance of Kastelorizo island and Davutoglu’s Cunningness
It is extremely difficult for Turkey to abolish their “Ottoman Cunningness” something that the Greeks due to their Byzantine past are the first to recognize.
The European Union considers the new UN Treaty of Maritime Law and therefore the EEZ issue, as part of its own legal statute. Consequently it has asked all its member states to establish an EEZ with the exception (at least so far) to the area of the Mediterranean Sea. This is probably a result of a Turkish request that was easily accepted by the European Union in its attempt to avoid becoming part of the problem.
This issue can not been seen separately from Davutoglu’s recent statement; “That Kastelorizo island does not belong to the Aegean Sea, but instead to the Mediterranean Sea.”, later on he tried to amuse the statement by saying the self-evident; “That Kastelorizo island belongs to Greece.”, which is the equivalent of Greeks saying; “That Ankara belongs to Turkey”.
With this statement the Turkish Foreign Minister intended to pulverize the Italian-Turkish Agreement of the Dodecanese islands, which with Turkish consent places Kastelorizo to the united space of the Aegean Sea, as an integral part of the Dodecanese islands.
The strategic importance of Kastelorizo island is upgraded, especially inside the present conjuncture. Kastelorizo is a populated island and therefore has the right to an EEZ that would unintentionally overlap with the EEZ of Cyprus and Egypt.
The completion of such an EEZ establishment would have the following characteristics:
• It would prevent Turkey from having maritime borders with Egypt. For this reason Turkey asked from Egypt not to include Kastelorizo island to the negotiations with Greece, but received a negative response.
• It would create a unified maritime space between Greece and Cyprus that Israel intends to recognize. Such a development would add to Israel a hinterland, but also an important passage for underwater energy pipelines to the West through Greece.
This “innocent” cunningness the eve of the visit to Greece by Mr. Davutoglu and the later anxious reactions of Turkish diplomacy to the Italian ship (with the purpose of placing submarine cables) inside Greek EEZ in the area of Kastelorizo, reveal the Turkish concern and its actual intentions of bringing to a halt the geostrategic upgrade of Greece in relation to Israel, North Africa and the Islamic World.
7. Foreign Policy is not Public Relations
Greece has on its side International Law and Maritime Law. It is an integral part of the European Family. It is a reliable ally of NATO that never created setbacks to the operational aspect of the alliance policy on the region. Contrary to Turkey (Iraq, Libya etc), Greece had always functioned in a supportive but rational manner, in the sense that it never feared to openly state its positions in regard to the stability and peace of the region. Greece never hesitated even if not in favor of the dominant powers, to mediate always with a calm approach in support of the people of the region; with whom it preserves historically good relations.
Even in relation to Turkey, Greece has kept an honest position. It genuinely supports Turkey’s European prospect, but has no intention of relinquishing from its own sovereign rights. What Greece asks from its allies, the international organizations (UN, NATO, EU) and Turkey, is the genuine respect to the code of values that Europe has and to International Law. Greece believes that dedicated peace, true cooperation, and sincere friendship between nations, can only be established if their policies comply with internationally accepted rules and conducts, constantly supported by mutual respect.
*Dr. Evripidis Stylianidis is Secretary of Governmental Program of N.D. Party, MP for Rodopi N.D., former Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs (2004-2007), former Minister of National Education and Religious Affairs (2007-2009), former Minister of Transportation and Communication (2009). This article published on the vol. 47 (July 2011) of the review of the Institute for Democracy "Konstantinos Karamanlis"