International Conference on Security and Energy in the Eastern Mediterranean
The International Conference on Security and Energy in the Eastern Mediterranean was organized by the Jean Monnet European Center of Excellence of the University of Athens on November 4 in Athens, with a welcome from the Minister of Foreign Affairs, N. Dendias, and the participation of dozens of experts from Europe, the USA and countries of the Eastern Mediterranean. For the past 22 years the Jean Monnet European Center of Excellence of the National and Kapodistrian University of Athens has been carrying out diverse research and has made an important educational contribution in European and international issues, with the participation of many academics and other specialists, as well as young scientists.
The first session of the Conference was dedicated to maritime delimitation issues in the Eastern Mediterranean. Under the chairmanship of the Dean of the Faculty of Law of the University of Athens, Professor L-A. Sisilianos, Professor J.L. Suarez de Vivero from the University of Seville, author of the well-known “Seville Map”, Professor N. Ros (France), Dr. Y. E. Acikgonul (Turkey), energy expert A. Varshavsky (Israel) and Assoc. Professor I. Stribis (University of the Aegean), all delved into the subject of delimitation challenges in the East Mediterranean, with I. Stribis presenting the Greek arguments on the matter. The speakers focused on the title and effect of islands in maritime delimitation and the stages of this process, as well as delimitation agreements between neighbouring states in the Eastern Mediterranean. Special mention was made by Mr. Stribis of the memorandum between Turkey and one of the most opposed groups in Libya, which lacks effective control in the country, so that it cannot be a signatory party to an international agreement. The inability of any of the groups claiming power in Libya to legally bind the country was highlighted, as they lack competence to conclude an international treaty. Finally, the prospects and challenges for the implementation of the pending maritime delimitations in the Eastern Mediterranean were discussed and the need to respect international law and negotiate in good faith was underlined.
Security issues in the East Mediterranean made the second panel’s subject of discussion. Under the coordination of Professor Tsakonas (University of Athens), General (Res.) A. Gilead (Israel), Dr R. Meinardus (Germany), Professor C. Aktar (Turkey), Dr P. Savvides (Cyprus), A. Burweila (Libya) and Professor K. Ifantis (Panteion University) shared their insights with the audience. The fact that Greece is Israel’s precious partner, as well as the stance of Berlin that Greek sovereignty over the East Aegean islands is unquestionable were particularly stressed, with a further mention of the Libyan-Turkish MoU which Berlin views as illegal. Special mention was made of Turkey’s practice to abusively invoke Art. 51 of the UN Charter on self-defence, while it is Turkey that threatens others and invents security threats supposedly against its own security. Ankara’s actions make evident the country’s complete disregard of International Law, one instance of such actions being the abovementioned MoU. With such aggressive course of action Turkey moves towards becoming a pariah-state, weaponizing asylum law as a means to carry out its planned hybrid intervention in the Republic of Cyprus. Libyan analyst A. Burweila made evident that the Libyan-Turkish agreements are null and void not only from an international law perspective, but also with regards to Libya’s national law. This is because the signatory authorities in western Libya not only lacked competence to proceed with such signing -being by default interim and deprived of any legitimacy domestically- but also because they are entities with no legal personality at the international level. Last, Turkey’s shift towards becoming un unreliable NATO member, one that promotes imperial values and nationalism, was also discussed.
Under the coordination of Professor N. Farantouris (University of Piraeus), the former Minister of Energy, Professor G. Maniatis (University of Piraeus), K. Stambolis (Institute of Energy of South-Eastern Europe) and Ms. A. Burweila (analyst from Libya) participated in the third panel. The speakers emphasized that, for the next 30 years, Europe’s energy mix will include both natural gas and renewables, hence the need for the EU to quickly exploit natural gas deposits in the Southern Mediterranean, as they are indispensable for the EU to become independent from Russia by diversifying its supply sources. The two Greek speakers supported the importance and viability of the East Med pipeline and dismissed the objections that have been raised against this major project. On the other hand, Mrs. Burweila presented the recent Libyan proposal for the construction of a gas pipeline from Greece to the eastern Libyan coast and from there to Egypt, South Mediterranean and Africa. This proposal was based on an earlier discussion and planning of this route in the period 2007-2009, as analyzed by the intervening former Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs G.Valinakis, who also explained its advantages in relation to EastMed. It was finally emphasized that the reinstatement of the proposal should be seriously considered.
In the last panel, chaired by the former Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Professor G. Valinakis, the prospects for the future were examined with the participation of the well-known American analyst Dr. M. Rubin (American Enterprise Institute), Ms. A. Aydintasbas (Turkey/Brookings Institution), Ambassador (ret.) M. Harrari (Israel) and Dr. Th. Dokos, national security advisor to the Prime Minister of the Hellenic Republic, who developed the Greek positions. During the discussion regarding the risk of a Greek-Turkish military conflict, Dr. Rubin was very critical of Turkey’s international behaviour and estimated that its economic difficulties could lead to a deliberate provocation by Erdogan against the Greek islands, so as to divert attention from real problems. For her part, expert Ms. Aydintasbas (from Turkey, living in the USA) argued that, due to the existing NATO decompression mechanisms, the probability of war is small (“it would have disastrous effects on the Turkish economy”), but the political tension “is to be continued’, while the risk of accidents cannot be excluded. Lastly, former Israeli ambassador Harrari underlined the risk of escalation “due to wrong perceptions” and recommended preventive normalization diplomacy and the “non-exclusion of Turkey”.