Nikos Kotzias: Critical remarks and facts around the Greek-Albanian EEZ

Nikos Kotzias: Critical remarks and facts around the Greek-Albanian EEZ

Former Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Hellenic Republic, honorary professor and member of the “Pratto” movement Nikos Kotzias, analyzes, comments and records his critical remarks on the Greek-Albanian EEZ and the demarcations carried out by the Greek Government.

In 2009, under the New Democracy (ND) government, Greece reached an agreement with Albania that provided 100% influence for the Diapontia Islands above Corfu. For unexplained reasons, the then government of ND did not bring the agreement to Parliament for ratification. In Albania, on the other hand, main opposition leader at the time Rama appealed to the Constitutional Court, which annulled the agreement invoking three arguments. The first argument, which is of interest in this analysis, was that the ND administration had already signed in 1977 an agreement with Italy on the continental shelf, which accepted a reduced impact on the Greek islands; at 70% for Diapontia, and 30% for Strofades.

When I was a minister, we agreed with the Albanian side on a package of comprehensive solutions to older (even 80 years old) and newer problems. As for the EEZ, we agreed that we were no longer in 1977. That, in the meantime, Greece and Albania had concluded the 1982 Law of the Sea, and consequently the Greek-Italian agreement of 1977 signed before 1982 could not constitute a criterion for a new agreement anymore. Furthermore, the Greek side had made it clear that Albania’s European path could not be paved without the most basic issues in the relations between the two countries having been resolved. In this context, the provisions in the draft agreement for the EEZ were similar to those of 2009. Parallelly, an agreement was implemented to lay to rest the heroes of the heroes of the Albanian epic who remained unburied for decades, as it happened.

Unfortunately, this agreement did not proceed under the resistance of many parties. And, “paradoxically”, the so-called “anti-nationalists” never had anything say about the fact that the Greek “deep state” was refusing to recognize in practice the Florence and Paris Protocols (1926 and 1927) which formed the borders between the two countries, nor did they ever support the legislative end of the war.

ND headed to the polls last year under the auspices of ND MPs in the Greek parliament, who cheered on the proclamations of the main opposition leader at the time that he would veto Albania’s EU membership. Obviously, once he took office, neither did he impose a veto on anyone, neither did he consider linking this accession with the firm Greek demands. He then proceeded to conclude the EEZ Agreement with Italy, without enforcing the provisions of the 1982 Law of the Sea and reiterating the negative and rejected provisions of the 1977 Agreement. This came despite the fact that, back in 1992, in its agreement with Albania on the EEZ, Italy had agreed to grant 100% influence to the smaller island of Sassona, located outside the port of Durres.

As a result of its choices, today, the ND government lacks the necessary tools to convince the other side to accept 100% influence in the Diapontia Islands. After eradicating the argument that the provisions of the 1977 agreement could not apply after 1982, in 2020 they naively and superficially copied the provisions of the ND agreement with Italy on the continental shelf. ND was faced with the fact that it had accepted limited influence, even in the context of the new Law of the Sea. It could not, however, do so directly in a transnational agreement with Albania, as its withdrawal from its own 2009 “binding agreement” would become apparent. That is because, for the past five years, ND has been declaring that every step behind that agreement would constitute a “betrayal”. Consequently, the only way left for it to legitimize its condescending concession to Italy was to agree with Albania to appeal to the International Court of Justice in The Hague, accommodating Albania’s wishes since 2009, following its own Constitutional Law ruling.

All in all, with the fouls committed by the ND government in how it agreed on the EEZs with Italy and Egypt, they accumulated a critical mass of degradation of the country, as well as a devaluation of its rights in the EEZ and the continental shelf of Greek islands. The result was the retreat towards Albania, through the referral to the International Court of Justice, that is, that fine art of stalling.

The question, of course, remains whether it is a bad choice to appeal to the International Court of Justice with Albania. No, it is not; but then again, all the Italian claims in the Greek-Italian EEZ agreement should not have been previously accepted thoughtlessly, without any compromise. Now anyone who has studied the Hague Tribunal rulings knows that the Diapontia Islands will receive the influence that Greece has already accepted in the agreement with Italy, that is, a maximum of 70%.

The way Greece has been handling the three EEZ agreements crystallizes a simple conclusion: Greece has accepted in the Ionian Islands island influence ranging from 32% to 70%. In Crete and the Dodecanese, from 0% (Koufonisi, Gaidouronisi) up to 50% and 80% at most for the large and very large islands. In a nutshell, the government, in an effort to sell fool’s gold with the assistance of the opposition parties, received a critical mass of reduced, close-to-zero influence on the Greek islands, heralding- and this is the worrying outcome- the agreement with Albania, but also any arbitration or international court with Turkey. /ibna