The Hague, a non-starter

Greece has the unwanted privilege of being the only European state faced with a national security problem. Moving westward is not an option, therefore Greece must find ways to protect its national interests against Turkish expansionism. The Greek public does not want tension and prefers political initiatives that promise to solve problems or at least keep the tension low. That, however, does not mean that it is willing to give up on its national dignity. In light of this, taking bilateral disputes to the International Court of Justice in The Hague does appear to make sense. In truth however the Hague dilemma is a false one. Greece has no reason to go to court for it has no claims on Turkey. For Athens, the only unresolved legal dispute that could be referred to the tribunal is the delineation of the continental shelf. The question of the continental shelf is connected to the extent of its territorial waters. Greece has a right to expand them up to 12 miles but has refrained from doing so for fear of the Turkish casus belli. If Greek political leaders feel that they cannot afford to exercise that right, they should negotiate a partial expansion. All other differences are of political nature and derive from unilateral Turkish claims. If Ankara deems that the current status in the Aegean is unjust, it can recognize the tribunal’s jurisdiction and resort to it. Greece on the other hand has recognized its jurisdiction (with one reservation) and is obliged to accept its judgment. It is pitiful that the side that can only lose out should be begging to resort to The Hague. The fact that the Greek government is seriously thinking of taking the dispute to The Hague is a sign of bending to Ankara’s expansionist pressure. If it really thinks it must buy calm by making concessions, it must say so. Unfortunately, there are no easy and cost-free solutions.