International Conference on Security and Energy in the Eastern Mediterranean
The International Conference on Security and Energy in the Eastern Mediterranean was organized on November 4 in Athens by the Jean Monnet European Center of Excellence of the University of 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 22 years already, the Center of Excellence of The National Kapodistrian University of Athens has been carrying out a diverse research and has important educational contribution on European and international issues, with the participation of many academics and other specialists, as well as young scientists.
The first session was dedicated to maritime delimitation issues in the eastern Mediterranean.
Under the chairmanship of the Dean of the Faculty of Law, Professor L-A. Sisilianos, it was attended by experts in international law of the sea, such as Professor J.L. Suarez de Vivero from the University of Seville, author of the well-known “Seville Map” (which depicts all the rights in EEZs of EU countries and has caused concern in Turkey) and professors and experts N. Ros (France), Y. E. Acikgonul (Turkey), A. Varshavsky (Israel) and I. Stribis (University of the Aegean) who also presented the Greek arguments.
Speakers focused on the title and effect of islands in maritime delimitation as well as the stages of this process, as well as delimitation agreements between neighboring states in the Eastern Mediterranean. Special mention was made by Mr. Stribis regarding 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 part of an international agreement. The inability of any of the groups claiming power in Libya to legally bind the country was highlighted, as they lack the capacity 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.
Under the coordination of Professor N. Farandouris, the former Minister of Energy, G. Maniatis (University of Piraeus), K. Stambolis (Institute of Energy of South-Eastern Europe) and Mrs. A. Burweila from Libya participated. The speakers emphasized that, for the next 30 years, Europe’s energy mix will include both natural gas and renewables, hence the need for rapid exploitation of natural gas deposits in the Southern Mediterranean and their importance for the EU’s independence from Russia and the proliferation of 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 connection of a gas pipeline from Greece to the eastern Libyan coast and from there, with a branch to Egypt and the Southern Mediterranean, as well as to 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 M. Rubin (American Enterprise Institute), Ms. A. Aydintasbas from Turkey/Brookings Instit.), Ambassador M. Harrari (Israel) and T. Dokos, national security advisor to the Prime Minister, 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 behavior and estimated that its economic difficulties could lead to a deliberate provocation by Erdogan against the Greek islands, so as to divert attention from the real problems. For her part, the expert Ms. Aydintasbas (from Turkey, living in the USA) argued that, due to the NATO decompression mechanisms, the probability of war is small (“it would have disastrous effects on the Turkish economy”), in contrast to the political tension that “is to be continued’ with regard to the risk of accidents. Finally, the former Israeli ambassador Harrari underlined the risk of escalation “due to wrong perceptions” and recommended preventive normalization diplomacy and the “non-exclusion of Turkey”.