Stavros Lygeros: With Dendias we’ll forget what we already know

With Dendias we'll forget what we already know, Stavros Lygeros

Persons holding state office are in fact linked to the institution they serve. Therefore, the respect we all owe to the institution, in a way, is transferred to the person. Provided that the person also respects the institution he serves, in the sense that he stands at the height of his office. I am writing the above not because I’m in a philosophical mood, but because I did not believe what I heard from Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias during the debate in Parliament on the ratification of the agreements with Italy and Egypt.

One might, perhaps, consider them untowards because of the oral nature of the speech, but I saw them published exactly on the website of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Therefore, the minister means in full what I quote below and which – by the way – passed without comment. Although the statements “stand out” no one commented!

So the minister said: “I would also like to say that what has been said about the reduced impact of the two agreements is not accurate. They are a theological debate, which is due to the fact that influence, for some very strange reason – I have to tell you that I have repeatedly asked a question, not inside the room, outside the room, to journalists, and pundits, what influence means. Nobody answered me. “Size is metaphysical or ‘theological’ now.”

Obviously I will not stay in the unfinished phrase. It can happen to all of us. I will, however, stick to the substance of Dendias’ position. So, because he asked journalists what influence in an EEZ means and he did not receive an answer, let us give it to him. Influence, Mr. Minister, is the degree to which a mainland coast or island participates (within its territory) in the delimitation of the EEZ between two states.

And this size is not at all “theological”, since it concerns the distribution of wealth-producing resources (fisheries, wave energy, algae, hydrates and possible hydrocarbon deposits). In fact, because we are dealing with a matter of public interest, the officials who manage it in the name of the Greek state must be extremely careful and tough negotiators. Let them be generous only with their personal possessions.

Complete and reduced impact

Let us return, then, to what the Foreign Minister does not seem to understand. Full influence is given to an island when the principle of the equidistant middle line, or the principle of equal distance, is used as a method of delimiting the EEZ (from the shores of the island to the shores of the other state). A reduced impact is attributed to an island if it is given less EEZ than it would be given by the application of the midline.

It is not rocket science! These are basic things that a foreign minister should be totally familiar with. And in fact, Mr Dendias negotiated two demarcation agreements. Although I have met with ministers whose ignorance was exorbitant, I prefer to believe that Dendias does not ignore the obvious, but indulges, on television channels and in Parliament, in a cheap rhetoric that exposes him. Because if he is ignorant, then the problem is much greater.

Listening to his speech and reading its text afterwards, I conclude that what the “poet” wants to tell us is the obvious, that the boundary line of the EEZ reflects the will of both sides. Obviously, Mr. Dendias it reflects this, but that is not the point. If – hypothetically speaking – we signed an agreement with Turkey, by which we ceded the entire EEZ of the eastern Aegean, again the agreement would reflect the will of the two governments, since it would have their signature. Only it would be unfair and nationally damaging.

The tautology and sophistry of Dendias

In fact, Dendias relies unbearably on tautology, in order to escape the crucial question: is the demarcation with Egypt fair? He even resorted to a sophistry: “And when we talk about recognizing a reduced influence on a partial demarcation, where does it come from? Since we who drafted the agreement did not take it into account, how is it possible for someone else to know?”

Mr. Minister, we may not know exactly how you “cooked” the demarcation line, but we know the end result: The EEZ attributed to Greece in this sea area (between the 26th and 27:59 ‘meridian) is about 16-17% less than would be attributed to it if the middle line principle were applied.

This loss practically means that in Crete, too, a Greek influence was recognized with a reduced influence, creating an extremely negative precedent. The fact that they agreed upon a line without mentioning the method they used to reach it is nothing more than a pretext in sin, a trick not to call what happened by its name.

Not knowing whether to laugh or cry

Resorting to another sophistry, the minister referred to the fact that the agreement with Italy gives Cephalonia more EEZs than would be attributed to it based on the principle of the middle line. This happened locally, but the evaluation is done by the whole. And yet it is completely different to accept a reduced influence on islands, such as Strofades, than to accept a reduced influence in Crete.

As the numbers show, the demarcation with Egypt is unfair to Greece. Unless Dendias and with him the Mitsotakis government have abandoned the established Greek position that the islands not only have EEZs, but especially the large ones that are geographically in a “chain” have full influence. If they consider it fair that Crete does not have full influence, let them tell us clearly so that we know where we are going.

The criterion that actually prevailed and the Mitsotakis government signed the unilateral agreement with Egypt is the declared intention to oppose an international agreement in the Ankara-Tripoli memorandum. Was this national expediency so important as to impose such large discounts on the delimitation of the EEZ?

The answer to the question is purely political and everyone can give their own. The Mitsotakis government gave its own, signing the Cairo Agreement. Instead of resorting to cleverness that exposes him, it would be appropriate for both his personal prestige and the interest of the government, for the foreign minister to remain fortified in the position that national needs imposed the discounts. Someone may disagree, but at least he will not laugh with him, as happened to me when I heard him explain – among other things – why instead of the 28th meridian he chose 27:59 ‘.

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