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Italy Ratifies Exclusive Economic Zone Agreement With Greece

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The Italian flag flying at the Altare Della Patria, Piazza Venezia, in Rome. Credit: Mariom 990 – Wikipedia/CC BY-SA 3.0

The Italian Senate ratified on Friday the 2020 maritime agreement with Greece, with which the two EU member states delimited their Exclusive Economic Zones.

”Greece welcomes the ratification with 223 votes in favor and only 2 abstentions by the Italian Senate yesterday of the Greece-Italy agreement on the delimitation of the respective maritime zones, which was signed in Athens in June 2020; the vote completes the ratification process of that agreement by the Italian legislatures,” a statement issued by the Greek Foreign Ministry on Saturday morning reads.

”This agreement, which is expected to enter into force in the near future, reaffirms the commitment of both Greece and almost all of its neighboring countries to international law, and in particular to the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), which reflects customary law, and which all countries have an obligation to respect and enforce,” the Foreign Ministry’s statement noted.

This was an indirect mention to Turkey, which continues to violate Greek and Cypriot sovereign rights in the wider region of the Eastern Mediterranean.

The Greece – Italy maritime deal of 2020

The signing of the agreement on the boundaries of the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) occurred during a meeting of the countries’ two foreign ministers, Nikos Dendias and Luigi diMaio in June 2020 in Athens.

The two countries managed to bridge their differences, after concerns expressed by Rome were addressed and resolved, mainly concerning fishing rights in the Ionian Sea.

The agreement is effectively an extension of a previous maritime border deal signed by Italy and Greece in 1977. It is also expected to pave the way for a similar accord with the country of Albania.

Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis had hailed the agreement as “a model of cooperation and good neighborly relations.”

Speaking in Parliament in June 2020, Mitsotakis said that the agreement between Athens and Rome ”describes the extent of the maritime zones that can be exploited and acknowledges in the most formal manner that islands have the same sovereign rights as continental land masses.”

What is an Exclusive Economic Zone, or EEZ?

The concept of the EEZ was adopted in 1982 at the Third United Nations Conference on the Law of the Sea. It stipulates that a sovereign state exercises special rights regarding the exploration and use of marine resources, including alternative means of energy production, from water and wind.

The area of ​​the EEZ stretches beyond the nation’s territorial waters and up to 200 nautical miles from its coastline, while the jurisdiction of the coastal state concerns the seabed and the waters below the sea surface, with the latter formally being under international jurisdiction.

Regarding territorial waters and the continental shelves of different states, if the EEZs of two countries overlap and interact, it is up to the neighboring states to jointly determine their exact maritime borders.

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