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Greece and the concept of exclusive economic zone

20 April 2011 / 09:04:07  GRReporter
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Anastasia Balezdrova

One of the most widely discussed issues of Greek foreign policy in recent years, especially in relation to the Greek-Turkish relations, is the question whether Greece should determine its exclusive economic zone in the eastern part of the Mediterranean Sea or not. The main reason lies in the fact that significant deposits of natural gas were found in the area between Cyprus and Israel. Meanwhile, the suspected presence of hydrocarbons in the area between the Greek island of Kastelorizo ​​and Cyprus further strengthened the calls for determining an exclusive economic zone between Greece and the island country.

But why this des not happen? Some analysts believe that Greece is "afraid" of response from Turkey, which could result in a cessation of exploratory contacts and sending research ships in the area. On the other hand, Turkey’s reluctance to recognize the right of Kastelorizo to ​​have exclusive economic zone is getting clearer, as it would significantly reduce the Turkish exclusive economic zone in the area. Many analysts argue that Greece did not raise the establishment of exclusive economic zone in order to avoid tension in their relationships and within a conservative policy towards Turkey. What is the situation today, however, and does Greece need to change its position on this issue? This was the subject of another discussion, organized by the Hellenic Foundation for European and Foreign Policy.

Christos Rozakis - Honorary Professor of International Law at the University of Athens -explained how the exclusive economic zone is determined and pointed out in what it differs from the continental shelf. "The exclusive economic zone is located over the continental shelf. It starts from the bottom and reaches the sea surface. Lawyers call it "the column of water." Rights such as fishing could be exercised within it, but also others related to the use of wind that blows on the surface or sea currents as well as natural resources such as deposits of oil and natural gas. These phenomena could be important from an energy standpoint in the future. The exclusive economic zone reaches up to 200 nautical miles from shore, starting from the end of the territorial waters of any country. Therefore, it usually has a length of 188 miles, since each country is entitled to 12 miles of territorial waters. This space is functional, not sovereign, while keeping at the same time the rights resulting from the maritime law. The exclusive economic zone is determined by the provisions of the UN convention on maritime law signed in 1982. Everything is fine if it is determined freely in the open sea area, but if this is not the case a contract should be signed between the adjacent countries and those located opposite each other."

According to Professor Rozakis, the boundaries of the eastern Mediterranean Sea are not clearly defined. Some geologists and geographers determine the area from ​​Rhodes and Crete to the east, while others believe that it starts from the imaginary vertical line between Italy and Africa. Those same geologists and geographers believe that the Aegean and Adriatic Sea are part of the eastern Mediterranean. "Therefore, the discussion about the boundaries of this area is symbolic. What matters is that if a decision is taken to determine the areas between the countries the opportunity to conduct a joint determination would undoubtedly prevail. This is not what Turkey aims at." According to the Professor, however, Greece should define its exclusive economic zone, as it has this right under the international convention.

The Former Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs in the last two governments of New Democracy Yannis Valinakis told about his experience in the Ministry and the operations of the then government to determine exclusive economic zones not only with Turkey but also with Egypt, Libya, Italy, Albania, Malta and Cyprus. He said Turkey had interfered in the negotiations with the other countries, especially Libya and had insisted that the Greek islands should not be taken into account in order to shrink the expansion of the Greek exclusive economic zone, "as if the islands are not part of Greece." In the negotiations between Greece and Egypt it stressed that Athens should not participate in determining an area, using the already-known argument that the island of Kastelorizo has ​​no exclusive economic zone and therefore the two areas do not interact.

"I would like to say that I do not accept the claim that there is a problem with the island of Kastelorizo. Turkey is trying to artificially induce this discussion. As you know, there is a contract signed in 1932 between Italy, to which the Dodecanese belonged then, and Turkey, which determines in a very specific way the points of the continuous line that defines the southern part of Samos to Kastelorizo." According to Yannis Valinakis, this boundary is very important from a political standpoint, precisely because it is defined by an agreement signed by the Turkish state and inherited by Greece. "I dare say that Rhodes has a very specific exclusive economic zone, which is evident from the maps drawn at that time as well as from the German and English maps after 1947 and the signing of the Paris peace treaties. Furthermore, when the contracts were signed Italy granted Turkey a number of small islands to agree with the determining of the borderline in 1932. They could expand the area to the Greek island opposite of Anatolia by many nautical miles. Some of them are located very close to Kastelorizo."

Tags: PoliticsInternational lawExclusive economic zoneContinental shelfResourcesGreeceTurkeyMediterranean basin
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