Greece took another step in extending its territorial waters in the Ionian Sea on Sunday with the publication of the presidential decree on the closing of bays and drawing of straight baselines in the western maritime area.
The decree affects the maritime area of the Ionian and the Ionian islands up to Cape Tainaro in the Peloponnese. It has impacted on Albanian political scene with opposition blaming PM Rama for selling out national territorial waters.
In the mid-1990s, Greece similarly attempted to extend its territorial waters in the Aegean Sea to 12 miles, but scuttled the plan after Turkey declared such a move would be a casus belli or cause for war.
Last Friday, the Greek Foreign Ministry said the decree was issued pursuant to the law ratifying the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea.
It adds that it is “a necessary step in the process for extending the country’s territorial waters in the above-mentioned area, an action which is, on the basis of the Convention, our country’s inalienable right.”
The decree, according to the Foreign Ministry, “highlights that Greece reserves the right – as deriving from the Convention on the Law of the Sea, which reflects international customary law – to exercise its respective rights in other areas of its territory.”
“Greece is growing”
Plans to extend the western limit of Greece’s territorial waters in the Ionian Sea to 12 miles were announced by Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis in August.
“Greece is growing,” he said and added that a bill will be tabled at parliament which would specify that the country’s territorial waters from the northernmost Ionian islands to Cape Tainaro in the Peloponnese will be extended to 12 nautical miles.
Mitsotakis had stressed that the extension of Greek sovereignty westwards is “our undisputed sovereign right, in accordance with Article 3 of the Convention on the Law of the Sea.”
In June 2020, Greece signed an agreement with Italy regarding the delimitation of maritime zones between the two countries.
Rama retorts sarcastically to critics
Civil society and opposition political parties in Albania accused Rama of having agreed behind scenes with the Greek government to reach an agreement on the maritime delimitation between the two countries at Albania’s disadvantage.
But Rama retorted cursing his critics over Greece’s maritime extension saying it is nationalistic - folkloric mud thrown by opposition for electoral propaganda.
Rama has agreed with the Greek government to take the case of maritime delimitation between the two countries to the International Court of Justice. The news was made public during the Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendia’s visit to Albania.
As a matter of fact Albania and Greece signed such an agreement in 2009. Rama’s party, then in opposition, took it to the Constitutional Court which nullified it due to violations of the Constitution and territorial integrity.
The mounting drive of opposition against the latest developments is focused on accusations against Rama of lack of transparency regarding his meetings and unofficial agreements with Mitsotakis and other Greek officials.
But the PM published Albania’s decision to extend its territorial waters to 12 nautical miles in 1990, adding that just as Greece didn’t oppose this back then, Albania also has no reason to oppose Greece’s decision now.
His critics maintain that by not opposing Greece’s extension of territorial waters to 12 miles at the United Nations, the Albanian government is letting part of its territory slip away, and paving the way for Greece to strengthen its case at the International Court of Justice. They add that Albania had no reason to agree on taking the case to the ICJ. /argumentum.al