Area of eez - Exclusive Economic Zone

When Konstantinos Karamanlis and Andreas Papandreou talked about the Greek-Turkish conflict in the Aegean Sea, they rightly argued that our dispute with the Turks is of a legal nature and concerns only the delimitation of the continental shelf. However, with the enactment of the Convention on the Law of the Sea by the United Nations in 1982, the concept of the continental shelf has been surpassed by the EEZ for decades!

Pursuant to Articles 55-57 of the new Convention, the EEZ is defined as the area beyond and adjacent to the coastal zone in width up to 200 nautical miles from the base lines from which the width of the coastal zone is measured and within which the coastal state exercises sovereign rights on issues related to the exploration, exploitation, conservation and management of natural resources, living or non-living, seabed and subsoil. At the same time, the Convention on the Law of the Sea explicitly states (Article 121, paragraph 2) that all islands have EEZs and that the EEZ and the continental shelf of an island are defined in exactly the same way as they are defined for the mainland .

The following map clearly shows the delimitation of the Greek EEZ based on the Law of the Sea. The Exclusive Economic Zone provision prohibits Turkey from using the same arguments it makes for the Aegean continental shelf, namely that our islands do not have a continental shelf or that they "sit" on the Anatolian continental shelf. In addition, the new Convention has abolished the geological concept of the continental shelf.

Map with EEZ - Exclusive Economic Zone

In the related voting on the new Convention on April 30, 1982, in New York, 130 states voted in favor, 4 against and 17 abstentions. By the end of 2008, the Convention had been ratified by 157 countries, including Cyprus (12 December 1988) and Greece (21 July 1995). It is worth saying that Turkey and Venezuela refused to sign the Convention due to the EEZ, because both countries have islands infront of them that they do not belong to them and so de factoc they have a limited EEZ.

Map with EEZ that Turkey wants to impose Map with the bordering countries in the Megisti complex Turkish Navtex in the Megisti complex in 2020

The EEZ in the southeastern Mediterranean

On December 12, 1988, Cyprus ratified the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea. In February 2003 and January 2007, Cyprus signed an agreement to delimit the EEZ with Egypt and Lebanon, respectively. The agreement is based on the internationally accepted principle of the midfield and the terms of the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea. On December 2010 there was the signing of an agreement between Cyprus and Israel on the delimitation of the EEZ between the two countries. At the same time, on February 16, 2007, Cyprus inaugurated the first round of applications for exploration and hydrocarbon exploration licenses.

Although Turkey did not sign or ratify the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, it adopted a Black Sea EEZ at the end of 1986 and came to an agreement with the then Soviet Union on the overlapping regions, using the middle line ground method. Later it began talking with Bulgaria and Romania on the same issue and reached a similar agreement with the Soviets.Thus, while Turkey has cooperated with Black Sea states to delimit the EEZ in the Black Sea - a "closed or semi-closed sea", like the Mediterranean - refuses to do the same in the Mediterranean, when it set a precedent in Black Sea.

At the same time, Turkey has declared its own Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) in the Mediterranean, ignoring the provisions of the International Convention on the Law of the Sea. In recent years it has published a map showing that Cyprus consists of two states and the so-called "southern" Cyprus has a limited EEZ. In addition, Turkey refuses to grant EEZ rights to Crete and the Dodecanese, with the result that the demarcation gives maritime borders with Egypt and Libya (!) Through the illegal Turkish-Libyan pact. Even worse, Turkey seems to have approached the Egyptians who can accept such a demarcation, which does not give EEZ rights to the Greek islands of Kastellorizo ​​and Strongyli.

Map with overlapping EEZs in the eastern Mediterranean

EEZ between Greece and Egypt

The key to the delimitation of the Greek EEZ is Kastellorizo, an island that is inhabited and, consequently, no one can deny that it has an Exclusive Economic Zone. Based on the principle of the midfield, the Kastellorizo ​​complex ensures the contact of the Greek with the Cypriot EEZ. These two intervene between Turkish and Egyptian, which significantly limits the Turkish EEZ in the Eastern Mediterranean. At present, however, there is no Greek EEZ, because Athens has not declared it. Under international law, a coastal state acquires an EEZ with a unilateral declaration. It then concludes demarcation agreements with neighboring states. If a demarcation agreement is not possible, the way in which neighboring countries resolve their dispute is by referral to the International Court of Justice.

In August 2020, Greece and Egypt announced their agreement on the delimitation of maritime zones. It took 15 years of negotiations to reach a partial EEZ, which is changing the landscape and balances in the wider Eastern Mediterranean region. The main points of the agreement are:

  • secures Greek sovereign rights as defined by international maritime law between 26th and 28th meridian
  • annuls de facto and de jure Saraj-Turkey agreement on the disputed part of the maritime border that Ankara is trying to challenge
  • the agreement is partial, as it includes points that concern only the two countries and does not extend to areas where the negotiation should be tripartite, to the west with Libya and to the east with Turkey.
Map with the EEZ between Greece and Egypt until the 28th meridian

The demarcation does not include Kastelorizo ​​as it stops in the middle of Rhodes, while in the west it reaches the 26th meridian. Diplomatic sources say, however, that the demarcation achieved deviates from the principle of the "middle line", in that it favors Egypt in a ratio of 55% -45%, somewhat cutting the influence of Crete and the surrounding islands.

EEZ between Greece and Cyprus

Several years ago, the Cypriot side approached the Greek government and asked it to proceed with the demarcation of the EEZ of the two states, but unfortunately Greece did not seize such a great opportunity that would create a precedent not only for Kastellorizo ​​but also for creating permanent maritime border with Cyprus!

EEZ between Greece and Albania

On March 20, 2009, the delimitation of the continental shelf and the sea zones between Greece and Albania was initialed in Tirana. It was preceded by a year of negotiations (since April 2008), which took place in four rounds. The basis of the agreement was the "recognition of full rights in the total territory of the two countries, ie in all land and island territories, islands, islets, rocks and reefs, in accordance with the provisions of Article 6 of the Convention on the Law of the Sea". In other words, the demarcation with Albania was done "based on the principle of the middle line", ie the equal distance between the two countries.

Unfortunately, on January 27, 2010 the Constitutional Court of Albania has decided to annul the agreement. According to the Albanian media, the agreement was unanimously annulled by the 9-member Constitutional Court of Albania, arguing that its drafting was based on wrong procedures, which is why it is proposed to renegotiate. On October 20, 2020, the two countries announced their agreement to refer the issue of maritime zones to the International Court of Justice in Hague.

EEZ between Greece and Italy

The agreement between Greece and Italy was reached on 9 June 2020, and is essentially a modification of the previous 1977 continental shelf agreement. The delimitation of the EEZ coincides with that of the Continental Shelf of 1977, as imposed by the modern trend for common delimitation of the functional zones in question. Italy, however, followed the same tactics as in 1977 with regard to its "historic" fishing rights. This means that the 2020 agreement became possible because the Greek side compromised on this issue. The rights of Italian fishermen should be clearly described in terms of restrictions (eg permitted species), so the darkest point of the agreement is to maintain the same fishery policy in Greek territorial waters, even in the area between 6 nm and 12 nm.

Ukraine vs Romania

Since the inception of the new Convention on the Law of the Sea in 1982, no country in the world has only requested the delimitation of the continental shelf from the International Court of Justice in Hague, but always requests the simultaneous delimitation of the Exclusive Economic Zone. Indeed, all the rulings of the Court to date have taken into account the delimitation of both zones, which always coincide. Unfortunately, all Greek governments have continued, since 1982, the trope of the continental shelf, systematically ignoring or avoiding for inexplicable reasons to bring the issue into their talks with the Turks. It would be a big mistake to appeal to Hague on Turkish terms and even worse without the issue of the EEZ.

On February 3, 2009, the International Court of Justice in Hague issued a crucial decision on the simultaneous demarcation of the continental shelf and the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) between Ukraine and Romania, in a dispute directly concerning Greece. The apple of contention between the two countries was an island in Ukraine, the island of Serpent ("Snake") in the Black Sea. It is quite a small island which was not inhabited, except for the last five years, without of course being considered a rocky islet.

Romania was of the opposite opinion and insisted that the island was not entitled to a continental shelf or an EEZ. Thus, the two countries signed a joint statement and asked the International Court of Justice to delimit that two maritime zones with the simultaneous commitment that the decision would be respected by both countries. The February 3rd decision is of significant interest to Greece, as Ukraine's position resembles Athens' stance and interests in the Aegean, while Romania's arguments could correspond to those of Ankara. The decision of the Court was, to a certain extent, in favor of Romania and so it is worth studying in particular, as it seems to be a precedent which could somewhat complicate the position of Greece in its dispute with Turkey on the road to Hague.

Map with the EEZ ruled by the International Court of Justice in Hague, in the dispute between Romania and Ukraine

The map of the decision shows that the Court demarcated the maritime borders of the two countries, mainly, with the method of the middle line, something that Greece also supports in the case of the Aegean. Unfortunately, however, it did not grant the island of Ukraine continental shelf or Economic Zone rights. At the same time, however, the court did not rule on whether the island is a rocky islet or not. He even justified this decision with the reasoning that the island already had a coastline of 12 miles, which, however, was not disputed by Romania. Thus, the map shows that Romania gained 79.3% of the maritime zone it claimed.

Unfortunately, the decision of the Court completely ignores the rights of the island, which as habitable has the right to a continental shelf and an EEZ, beyond of course the sovereign rights that originate from its (indisputably) coastal zone. It is worth saying that Serpernt is 35 kilometers from the Danube River Delta and its size is 0.17 square kilometers, with a length of 662 meters and a width of 440 meters. It has about 100 inhabitants, post office, bank, power station and telecommunications.

We must emphasize, on the other hand, that the Court did not take into account at all that the Black Sea is a closed or semi-closed sea. This benefits Greece, as the position of Turkey is well known, which insists that the Aegean Sea is a closed or semi-closed sea. If the Court does not consider the Black Sea as closed, it certainly could never consider the Aegean as a closed sea either. In addition, in this case the Court dealt with a single small island in the Black Sea. It is obviously different to deal with islands scattered in the Aegean most of which are large and inhabited.

Nicaragua vs Colombia

The International Court of Justice in Hague (ICJH) on Monday, November 19, 2012, ruled in the dispute between Colombia and Nicaragua, which concerned the simultaneous demarcation of the EEZ and the continental shelf of the two states. Nicaragua appealed to the ICJH in December 2001 seeking to seize control of some of Colombia's islands and expand its maritime borders.

The ICJH ruled that Colombia, not Nicaragua, had full sovereignty over the islands of Alburquerque, Este Dudeste, Roncador, Serrana, Quiatasueno, Serranilla and Bajonuero, while at the same time enclosing Colombian rocky islands in the sovereign rights of 12 n.m. from their shores. The map below shows how the ICJH delimited the EEZ and the continental shelf of the two states.

Map with the EEZ ruled by the International Court of Justice in Hague, Nicaragua's dispute with Colombia

Map shows:

  • with blue, zigzag line the maritime border between Colombia and Nicaragua before the decision
  • with the blue and purple area the new boundaries between the two countries

The benefits (in areas with submarine oil wealth) of Nicaragua are obvious, as with the decision of the ICJH, the EEZ and the continental shelf awarded in the country 'encircle' the Colombian islets.

Applying the spirit of the decision in the case of Greece, Turkey and Kastellorizo, the decision favors Turkey as it would give Kastellorizo ​​full sovereign rights of 12nm, but would confine it to a Turkish EEZ that would interrupt the Greek-Cypriot and Egyptian. In any case, and regardless of the decision of the international court, an appeal to this would (perhaps) put an end to the Greek-Turkish disputes by allowing the two countries to exploit their natural wealth.It is worth saying that Colombia did not recognize the decision of the ICJH and withdrew from the convention recognizing its jurisdiction, a development that may be repeated in our region in the future.

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