By Nikos Kotzias *
New Democracy’s argument that 2018 and 2020 cannot be compared and, therefore, what constituted a “betrayal” back then is marvelous today because the country “is facing more problems”, is absurd. The art of politics is to anticipate developments and deal with them through a plan, knowledge and courage and not to run, like New Democracy does, behind developments, with no plan or knowledge. Nor to react spasmodically and with multiple retreats that herald more in the future.
In 2018, we tested the limits of the nervous-revising Turkey, and we were preparing. New Democracy did not. She had her eyes fixed on the chairs of power and everything else around her had darkened and she appeared indifferent. By 2020, valuable time had been lost and a series of retreats had taken place.
In 2015-8, there was a plan that included solutions for all key issues, such as the Name Dispute, the Cyprus issue, the Territorial Waters. As for the latter, the plan was to close the bays and demarcate the median lines, so that the country would grow. To expand the territorial waters and for Greece to acquire an EEZ. I was the first Minister to promote such a plan. It was then sought to implement the plan by invoking International Law, so that, during the resolution of our dispute with Italy, there would be no concessions of our national sovereignty, as was the case with New Democracy. With the extension to 12 miles plus the bays, the Greek-Italian EEZ could automatically no longer include what Italy eyed and what New Democracy offered unreservedly in the end.
With the expansion of territorial waters, the content of negotiations with Albania for the EEZ was drastically reduced by 94%. The right solution thus became easier. Work was done in the same direction on the bays, median lines and territorial waters of Crete, as I foresaw future provocations by Turkey.
By 2015, the provision of International Law for the closure of the bays and the delineation of median lines had vanished from the Greek debate. When I took these predictions out of the “chest” of International Law and prepared presidential decrees, I was attacked by forces with an abundance of objections from almost every field. With attempts to discredit this policy and personal attacks. Just a reminder.
My first prediction on the subject of the 12 miles was to promote these rights in a legislative order and in the right political-diplomatic manner. The EEZ, the territorial sea, the bays and the median lines have a specific order in their layout to have maximum effect. The closure of the gulfs meant that the gulfs were turning into “inland waters” where state sovereignty is absolute. The bays become a kind of “non-dry soil”. The ends of the bays are connected by straight lines called median lines (there are 4 types). These two moves are announced and posted to the UN as soon as they are made. The importance of the bays and the median lines does not only concern the “territorial” expansion of a state, but also the fact that the delineation of the EEZ and the territorial sea, once the bays and the median lines have been secured, starts from the latter and not from the “inner beaches” of the bays. Consequently, when one agrees on an EEZ before closing the bays, one has already lost parts of it, which would arise had the EEZ started from the median line. The manipulation by New Democracy of both EEZs and the expansion of the territorial zone did not take this into account. The party followed a course without hesitation. Proof that it did not and still doesn’t have a strategy.
The second element of the plan for the partial expansion of the territorial waters was the provision, as soon as we closed the bays and drew the median lines, to carry out a quarterly extension of the territorial waters to the next areas of the country, so that at the end of a year the total planned expansion of territorial waters had taken place. In October 2018, in the Ionian Sea and part of the sea of northern Crete. In January 2019, the whole of Crete and other islands. In April 2019, mainland Greece up to Thessaloniki and so on. This plan had the advantage that it neither accepted the theory that we only have rights in the Ionian, nor did it agree with the view that we would retreat to Turkey if we started the zones in installments. This is because Greece, until today, in the name of not showing yield to the Turkish threat with the partial expansion of territorial waters, has never made any use of its rights, under any circumstances. She had de facto given up on them. Which constitutes, in fact, the maximum retreat. The argument against the gradual expansion of territorial waters would probably have some value if such a plan had begun and ended in the Ionian.
Third, the first Presidential Decree I had prepared included, along with the Ionian and Southern Peloponnese, the islands of Kythira and Antikythira. Between the two, and between the latter and Crete, two corridors were provided, in order to ensure international navigation. This move refuted the argument that Greece immediately wants to turn the Aegean into a closed sea. In addition, she exposed Turkey and pushed her to abandon in practice her war statements (an issue that I will not discuss in public). Consequently, a retreat, and I state this early on, would refer to these expansions not being provided for the two islands.
The expansion of territorial waters would be implemented through presidential decrees, because they are implementing acts of existing legislation (ratification/incorporation by the Greek Parliament of the International Law of the Sea of 1982) and as essentially stated in the then law, its implementation required presidential decrees. In our country, the implementation of a law is not carried out through bills, unless such a thing is explicitly provided. I say this so as to silence the well-known phobic arguments that prevented the previous government from such a very correct act. And, to be clear, when I resigned, the presidential decrees had already been forwarded to the President of the Republic and the Prime Minister at the time had been informed, before being returned to me after my resignation. No one was surprised. Some people in the then government did not want my political plan to be implemented. They invoked the need for a law instead of a Presidential Decree, in order to reject the PDs and not even establish the law. We have known since the ancient times, however, that politics is judged by the result and not by the excuses.
I practiced politics looking ahead, evaluating what is coming and what needs to be done. Having studied and formulated a strategy. I wanted to prevent situations with a plan and by utilizing every legal-technical and diplomatic means. On the contrary, New Democracy is currently struggling with the existing preparation without realizing the overall plan. In hindsight, she does half of the things she used to demonize as a case of betrayal two years ago. Makes inadmissible concessions. Confuses the order of things and continues to fail to understand. I’m afraid the country is in for a right. I hope I am wrong. /ibna
* Nikos Kotzias is a former Minister of Foreign Affairs, member of the PRATTO movement, Emeritus Professor of International Relations-Foreign Policy PA.PEI, Author