By Nikos Kotzias *
Egypt is a friend and ally. We have a common EEZ and it is good to identify it, delimit it and declare it. We have been negotiating with it for many years, in good faith. Because it is also a country that believes in and applies the international law of the sea, recognizes EEZs, continental shelf and other maritime zones.
In any negotiation, which takes place with the common acceptance of international law, there are disagreements about the provisions for its implementation. The meaning of negotiation is to find an honest compromise package, where each side will “win” part of the objects of disagreement. In the Greece-Egypt agreement on the EEZ we have the amazing phenomenon that in terms of the issues under negotiation, looking at the maps, Greece accepted all the Egyptian objections and demands and did not gain anything on the issues under negotiation. Essentially, as it did in the delimitation of the EEZ with Italy, it gave the other side what it asked for and did not get anything back in the negotiation.
In the long negotiations with Egypt, 5 serious issues had arisen that due to the fact that no compromise had been found yet, it was not possible to sign an agreement. Because some people ask me “why didn’t you close it” the answer is very simple: because such agreements are not closed hastily with a retreat across the negotiation front. If that were the case there would be no need for diplomacy. You declare that you do not ask for anything, that you will give what you are asked for and the agreement is ready. I have never made such agreements and I would never sign them. Of course in a package deal one would not get it all. That is correct. But the other side would not get it all either, as is the case here.
Egypt and Cyprus have agreed in an EEZ on the application of the principle of the middle line. With Greece, “paradoxically”, did not want to make a similar agreement. It wanted to apply the principle (of the coasts, that is, of the base points) to be applied. This principle is pursued, in some respects, by Turkey. The agreement of the EEZ with Egypt does not divide the EEZ between us into two equal parts, but gives it 55% and us 45%. So the “plain” principle of the middle line was not applied.
Second, the agreement with Egypt is not only partial to the East, as it has always demanded, but to the agreement to the west as well. It does not reach the borders of Egypt and Libya. This means that it is stumped to the west without the argument that “Egypt does not want tensions with Turkey”. This stump also took place in the EEZ with Italy. The latter did not reach the south, where the Libyan EEZ is conceivably starting, in order not to leave it room to commit other illegalities.
Third and very important, in the south of the prefecture of Lassithi belongs a cluster of islands and islets. Three of them, Trochilos, Strongylo and Koufonisi, are of great importance as base points for determining the EEZ with Egypt (the same is true for Gaidouronisi or, otherwise, Chrysi). The largest of them, Koufonisi, has its own economic life. With great effort, thanks to the help of “Pratto” Ierapetra, I collected all the evidence. Photos, brochures from the company on the island, brochures of the boats that transported the tourists to Koufonisi, etc. That is, we had evidence that the island had an independent economic life and therefore had all the rights of the islands as provided by the Law of the Sea. As I read the maps that were published, this cluster of islands was not considered as having any influence towards the delimitation of the EEZ, not even Koufonissi. After limiting the diapontic islands above Corfu to 70% and Strofades (two islands on the diagonal between the Peloponnese and Zakynthos) to 32%, the Government has now agreed on Koufonissi at 0%. Anyone who does not understand the consequences of this for islands that do not have a Greek coastline on their backs but that of a third country, is at best stupid and at worst dangerous. This is confirmed by the fact that on the map, from point E to D, the EEZ moves in the opposite direction from that of geography!
Fourth, the major Greek islands, such as Karpathos and Kasos, and even Rhodes have limited influence. It is clear that this is the result of an unprincipled retreat and elementary negotiation.
Fifth, just as important and problematic as the previous two. To the east, the EEZ is chartered until the 28th meridian. It intersects Rhodes in the middle (another achievement). When the Egyptians suggested this to us, we rejected it without a second thought. Will the government say that after reaching a partial demarcation, what does it matter that it does not include the whole of Rhodes? The answer is simple: (a) Turkey has always denied that there are Greek rights from the 28th to the 32nd. Consequently, Greece de facto accepts that this is a disputed area, with its own signature. (b) Right next to where the drawn line ends, the drawing of the EEZ proposed by Turkey in Egypt begins. In this way, then, Egypt does not lose none of its EEZ. Only Greece has significant losses. There is no precedent for such undermining of the position of the Greek islands in the Eastern Mediterranean.
Conclusion: in all the issues under negotiation Greece made concessions. Granted rights to third parties. As with Italy, it did not take anything from the “disputed”, while it gave everything. The agreement it made, as with Italy, weakens any of its future negotiating positions, both with Albania and much more with Turkey.
The agreement is not a good compromise with mutual concessions. I wish it was. In fact, only one side made concessions to the detriment of its long-standing interests and rights. Unilateral concessions are not a compromise. Because at no point did Egypt back down from the positions it had put forward for years in the negotiations. On the contrary, Greece has backed down from all its negotiating positions. Unfortunately./ibna
* Nikos Kotzias is former Minister of Foreign Affairs of Greece, Emeritus Professor of International Relations and Foreign Policy at the University of Piraeus and Member the Pratto Movement.