Bitter truths

George Papandreou’s proposal yesterday that Greece should extend its territorial waters before the issue of the continental shelf is tackled shed the popular misconception that Greece can go to The Hague for that dispute only without a prior agreement on the country’s sovereign rights. Taking the continental shelf dispute to The Hague on the basis of a joint agreement between the Greek and Turkish governments was only possible until 1982 – before the UN’s new Law of the Sea came into force. Until then, the limit for territorial waters was internationally recognized at 6 miles. The law emerged in 1994 and was ratified by the Greek Parliament in 1995. The basis for a joint agreement no longer exists as Greece enjoys the right to expand its territorial waters up to 12 miles which Turkey views as a cause for war (casus belli). Hence any reference to the delineation of the continental shelf concerns either negotiations of Greece’s sovereign rights in the Aegean or nothing substantial at all. In that case, the question is this: What do former PASOK government officials mean by saying that Greece could have played the Hague card had its conservative successors not abandoned the so-called Helsinki agreement? But it’s not just the limits of territorial waters. As of 1996 Turkey has made allegations of «gray zones» of undetermined sovereignty in the Aegean. In short, the signing of a joint agreement for taking the legal issue of the delineation of the continental shelf to the court presupposes an agreement with Ankara on the boundaries of Greece’s territorial waters as well as Turkey’s gray zones claims. The chaotic discussion of the past few days is slowly unveiling some very bitter truths.

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