Zee, what Italy and Greece have decided

Zee, what Italy and Greece have decided

Marco Dell'Aguzzo's article on the agreement between Italy and Greece for the delimitation of maritime borders, the Zee (Exclusive Economic Zones)

Yesterday was a historic day, said Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias to comment on the signing – together with his Italian counterpart Luigi Di Maio – of the agreement between Rome and Athens for the delimitation of maritime borders. The agreement extends the 1977 agreement and resolves some disputes over fishing rights in the Ionian Sea, but in reality it has far greater significance. In fact, it fits into a geopolitical framework particularly relevant for Italian interests: the eastern Mediterranean, home to large gas fields, represents an opportunity for economic and political development for our country. But the Italian ambitions clash with those of Turkey, which claims some stretches of sea in this region as its own and which does not want to lose its energy centrality.


Signed during a visit to Athens by Di Maio – but he and Dendias had already met in Rome in February to discuss how to deepen their energy collaboration -, Monday's agreement delimits the exclusive economic zones (EEZ) of Italy and Greece, that is, the maritime areas on which each nation has the rights to explore and exploit the resources contained therein.

The agreement is important for Greece because it represents a response to the EEZ treaty signed at the end of November between Turkey and the Libyan government of Fayez al-Sarraj. A treaty which according to Athens violates the law of the sea – and which Rome has defined unacceptable – because Turkish maritime claims overlap with Greek ones. That the pact with Italy also contains a message in Ankara is evident: Minister Dendias explicitly compared it to the Turkish-Libyan agreement which, unlike the Italian-Hellenic one, would have been reached with invalid methods.

Dendias also stated that Greece plans to reach agreements for delimiting maritime borders with all its neighbors; an article by Ekathimerini claims that the treaty with Italy opens the door to a similar one with Albania. Meanwhile, on June 18 Dendias will visit Cairo to resume negotiations on the EEZ with Egypt.


Italy, Greece, Egypt and Turkey – but also Israel and Cyprus – are all linked in the great energy game that has been going on for years in the eastern Mediterranean, where important gas fields have been discovered. Given the proximity between these deposits and their wealth, discussions began immediately on how to manage the export of extracted gas to Europe.

One of the hypotheses considered is that of the EastMed pipeline. The option, although expensive, appeals to the European Union because it would allow it to diversify its sources of energy supply and thus reduce its dependence on Russian gas. And for the same reason, the United States also likes it: EastMed would diminish Moscow's influence on the Old Continent (as opposed to the North Stream 2 between Russia and Germany, which Washington in fact opposes).

EastMed does not like Turkey, which does not want to give Italy and Greece the role of energy hub , of "intermediary" between the Middle East (where gas is produced) and Europe (where it is consumed). The agreement on the redefinition of the EEZs with Libya then serves the government of Recep Tayyip Erdogan to slow down the progress of the project, which should go through sections of the sea claimed by Ankara.

In addition to this, Turkey does not want to be excluded from the exploitation of hydrocarbons in the waters of the eastern Mediterranean: a question that is connected to territorial disputes between Turkey on the one hand; Cyprus, Greece and Egypt on the other.

Despite having a geopolitical value for Brussels, EastMed proved to be an expensive project and could therefore be set aside in favor of cheaper options. Such as the transportation of gas from the Israeli to the Egyptian coasts, where it would be liquefied and exported by LNG carrier: an option that could still satisfy Italy, given that the plant in the city of Damietta is owned, in part, by Eni.

This is a machine translation from Italian language of a post published on Start Magazine at the URL https://www.startmag.it/energia/zee-che-cosa-hanno-deciso-italia-e-grecia/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=zee-che-cosa-hanno-deciso-italia-e-grecia on Wed, 10 Jun 2020 12:22:10 +0000.