The EU External Borders Management in Evros, the Aegean and East Mediterranean
1st MEETING PRESS RELEASE
The first meeting of the second cycle of seminars entitled “The EU External Borders Management in Evros, the Aegean and East Mediterranean” was held online -and via the Webex platform- on Thursday, June 2 2022. The specific topic treated in this meeting was “Greece and EU’s External Borders in the Aegean and East Mediterranean”.
Associate Professor at the University of the Aegean, and Scientific Director of the Jean Monnet European Center of Excellence of the University of Athens, Ioannis Stribis, coordinated the meeting, while Vasilios Grammatikas, Assistant Professor at the Democritus University of Thrace; Maria Gavouneli, Professor at the National and Kapodistrian University of Athens; and Georgios Anepsiou, PhD in International Law, Teaching Staff Member of the Panteion University, of the Ikaron School and of the National Defense School shared their knowledge with the audience, and participated in the discussion. Prior to the commencement of the meeting, Professor at the University of Athens and President of the Jean Monnet European Center of Excellence of the University of Athens, Yannis Valinakis, welcomed the participants to the cycle of seminars, with his salute being followed by his commentary on the burning issues that are currently shaking the East Mediterranean region.
The first speaker, Mr. Anepsiou, referred to National Air Space, where a state has full sovereignty, and to the matter of whether a “European” Air Space does exist. He defined the term “Air Space”, and then drew a distinction between the National Air Space and the International Air Space -the latter making part of the Global Commons. He then elaborated on how the National Air Space column is delimited vertically and horizontally. In coastal states, the National Air Space outer (horizontal) limit usually coincides with the Territorial Waters outer (seawards) limit, while what lies beyond these outer limits is High Seas and International Air Space. The subject of how International Law on the above matters has developed, and the Greek National Air Space case were also treated by the aforementioned speaker.
The floor was then given to Mr. Grammatikas, who analyzed the importance of borders in the modern world. Historically, the first mention of border delimitation is found in the 1494 Treaty of Tordesillas. Needless to say, the creation of modern states following the 1648 Treaty of Westphalia, resulted in the need for the borders between or among the newly founded entities to be delimited. Borders have ever since been inextricably linked with the state’s territory and state sovereignty. Furthermore, mention was made of the three types of borders -land, sea and aerial ones- as well as of the fundamental rules and principles referring to borders, such as the inviolability and the uti possidetis iuris principles.
Maritime zones and maritime zone delimitation made the main focus of Ms. Gavouneli’s presentation. The Continental Shelf, within which the coastal state has sovereign rights to explore and exploit its seabed and subsoil natural resources, as well as the EEZ and the rights pertaining to it, were analyzed next. The 1977 and 2020 Agreements on Maritime Zones Delimitation between Greece and Italy -Agreements that have been concluded in compliance with the International Law of the Sea and the 1982 UNCLOS- and the tension in the East Mediterranean resulting from the concerned coastal states’ opposing stances, were also discussed.
The speaker’s presentation was followed by a discussion on the delimitation of maritime zones of islands such as Kastellorizo, on the 1975 Helsinki Final Act and the OSCE’s political nature, and on the difference between borders and boundaries.
2nd MEETING PRESS RELEASE
The second meeting of the second cycle of seminars entitled “The EU External Borders Management in Evros, the Aegean and East Mediterranean” was held online -and via the Webex platform- on Monday, June 6 2022. The specific topic treated in this meeting was “The EU External Borders: The Role of the European Border and Coast Guard Agency in Border Management and Protection”.
Associate Professor at the University of the Aegean, and Scientific Director of the Jean Monnet European Center of Excellence of the University of Athens, Ioannis Stribis, coordinated the meeting, while Metaxia Kouskouna, Assistant Professor at the National and Kapodistrian University of Athens and Executive V-P of the Jean Monnet European Center of Excellence of the University of Athens; Antonia Zervaki, Assistant Professor at the National and Kapodistrian University of Athens; and Grigorios Apostolou, Head of the Frontex Office in Greece, shared their knowledge with the audience, and participated in the discussion.
Firstly, Ms. Metaxia Kouskouna gave an overview of the maze-like EU structure. The EU -a sui generis entity and not a state- is nonetheless comprised by sovereign states, in the territory of which EU legislation is implemented. In order for the Single Market to take full effect, the Maastricht Treaty established the Area of Freedom, Security and Justice, by virtue of which the freedom of movement within the EU of not only EU citizens, but also of citizens of third countries, on condition that they have lawfully entered the EU, including those that seek international protection, has been promulgated. Towards the end of a freely operating Single Market, the 1985 Schengen Agreement guaranteed unrestricted movement, which resulted in the abolishment of border controls across the EU internal borders, while border control across the EU external borders was kept in place, and stood in for the abolished internal border controls.
The second speaker, Ms. Zervaki, gave a definition of Maritime Spatial Planning -a commonly used state practice for managing ecologically sensitive areas by means of creating special protection zones. UNESCO is the first International Organization to have codified maritime spatial planning, while the EU has set concrete targets relating to Maritime Spatial Planning -an EU policy that is complementary to other EU policies. It goes without saying that the external EU border management, and cooperation among EU and non-EU countries relating to the EU external border and to tackling security issues do pose challenges that need to be addressed.
The last speaker, Mr. Apostolou, explained the modus operandi of Frontex -founded in Warsaw in 2005 with the aim to coordinate the management of external EU borders. In the course of time Frontex competencies have been amplified, thus comprising border controls, border surveillance, returns, information gathering and exchange, tackling cross-border crime and search-and-rescue operations. Frontex’s operational capacity and its contribution to the management of sea and land borders were also presented. Special mention was made of the fact that Frontex can lawfully undertake operations in third countries’ territory, provided an agreement is concluded between the concerned third state and the European Commission prior to the operation.
Last, the discussion centered around Q&As about the role that the exploitation of offshore hydrogen reserves can play in Maritime Spatial Planning, about Frontex activities in countries like Cyprus, that do not make part of either the Schengen Area or of the Area of Freedom, Security and Justice, and about Frontex activities in third countries, like Turkey.
3rd MEETING PRESS RELEASE
The third meeting of the second cycle of seminars entitled “The EU External Borders Management in Evros, the Aegean and East Mediterranean” was held online -and via the Webex platform- on Thursday, June 6 2022. The specific topic treated in this meeting was “Challenges, Threats, Violations regarding the External Borders in the Aegean and Evros”.
Professor at the University of Athens, and President of the Jean Monnet European Center of Excellence of the University of Athens, Yannis Valinakis, coordinated the meeting, while Georgios Karipsiadis, Supervisor at the Hellenic MFA EU Law Department of the Special Legal Service; Theodoros Piskiliopoulos, Hellenic Navy Captain, Staff Officer at the National Defense General Staff (Division A1); Thomas Basioukas, Assistant Police Commissioner, Supervisor at the Foreigners and Border Protection Department, Hellenic Police Headquarters Directorate for Border Protection; Georgios Christianos, Coast Guard Captain, Staff Officer at the Hellenic Coast Guard Integrated Maritime Surveillance Service, and Petros Violakis, Assistant Professor at the Rabdan Academy, UAE, Research Fellow at the Jean Monnet European Center of Excellence of the University of Athens, shared their knowledge with the audience, and participated in the discussion.
The first speaker, Mr. Karipsiadis, explained how the inviolability of national sovereignty and inviolability of national borders are interlinked from a legal perspective. In compliance with International Law, the definition of their state sovereignty falls within the exclusive competence of EU Member States. The territory within which the EU exercises its jurisdictions, additively comprises all territories where Member States have national sovereignty. Thus, the borders within which the EU exercises its jurisdictions are the external EU borders. In areas where EU Member States have sovereign rights, e.g., in the EEZ, the EU is responsible for these rights not to be questioned. By virtue of the Schengen Borders Code, EU Law is in effect at EU entry points, and Member States are competent and accountable for its implementation, while at non-entry points the responsibility for protecting their national border lies solely with the Member States.
The floor was then given to Mr. Piskiliopoulos, who outlined the current border security challenges -breaches of National Air Space and National Sea Space, and illegal migration. Relevant threats can be of military or non-military nature, as well as hybrid ones. Illegal migration is a potential asymmetrical threat against not only Greek interests, but also against the greater region. The Hellenic Coast Guard, Hellenic Sea Border Patrol and Hellenic Police are all responsible for the Greek land and sea border to be effectively controlled. In their task to successfully manage the border and monitor migration flows, the above forces are backed by Frontex and NATO in jointly-held operations, such as EU’s EUNAVFORMED Irini, NATO’s Sea Guardian and UN’s UNIFIL.
Next speaker’s, Mr. Basioukas’, focus was on security issues, such as those arising along the Greek-Turkish border. More specifically, cross-border criminal activities take place in the land Greek-Turkish border area. Following the war in Syria, Greece has become -and still is- a crossing point for “Foreign Fighters”, as it is situated at the intercontinental crossroads. In this context, Greece exchanges information with INTERPOL and EUROPOL in order to track down individuals who are suspected to have engaged in illegal activities, and to best conduct security checks. “Operation Shield” is carried out by the Hellenic Police, with personnel being transferred to hotspot islands and Evros, so as for the migration flows to be more effectively managed. Hellenic Police also cooperate with Frontex, EUROPOL and EUAA/EASO in joint operations. The presentation ended with an overview of the 2020 Evros Greek-Turkish border crisis.
Last, Mr. Christianos analyzed the particularities of the Greek sea environment, such as the very long coastline. Regarding migrant arrivals from the East, they spiked in 2016, but as a result of the EU-Turkey Statement in 2016, Greek–Turkish relations were normalized. However, starting 2019, the situation changed again, as Turkey began instrumentalizing migration flows. Consequently, the dogma of “Enhanced Surveillance” was put in force by the Hellenic Coast Guard at the sea border, with borderline operations being conducted towards the end of illegal border crossings be promptly tracked. In addition, the speaker, from his hands-on experience perspective, analyzed the conditions of migrant smuggling by organized criminal networks, the operational challenges in managing smuggling vessels, and the efforts made in order for a cooperation between the Hellenic Coast Guard and their Turkish counterpart to realize.
Mr. Violakis’ presentation was about hybrid threats and, more specifically, about fake and/or misreported news. A definition of the term ‘misinformation’ was given first, followed by a description of the means, motives and aims of spreading fake or misreported news. Emphasis was given to the cases of ‘meta-truth’ and ‘collective memory’, that are both closely related with the shaping of public opinion by recourse to either emotion or Ηistory. The role of cyberspace and the internet, including impact and restrictions emanating from their use, was also explained. Concrete examples of how fake news is spread can be found in former US President Trump and President Erdogan’s rhetoric.
During the discussion that followed the speakers’ presentations, attendees asked questions on how smugglers and illegal networks can be stopped, as well as questions about the land, air and sea entry points, and NATO’s operation.
4th MEETING PRESS RELEASE
The fourth meeting of the second cycle of seminars entitled “The EU External Borders Management in Evros, the Aegean and East Mediterranean” was held online -and via the Webex platform- on Monday, June 20 2022. The specific topic treated in this meeting was “The EU External Borders: The Role of the European Border and Coast Guard Agency in Border Management and Protection”.
Honorary Ambassador Alexandros Mallias coordinated the meeting, while Alexandros Diakopoulos, Vice Admiral (ret.), General Director at the D-G of Developmental and Humanitarian Aid of the Hellenic MFA; Yannis Valinakis, Professor at the University of Athens, President of the Jean Monnet European Centre of Excellence of the University of Athens; Ioannis Stribis, Associate Professor at the University of the Aegean, Scientific Director of the Jean Monnet European Centre of Excellence of the University of Athens; and Michalis Myrianthis, PhD, Adviser and Strategic Analyst on oil, gas and geopolitics shared their knowledge with the audience, and participated in the discussion.
Mr. Diakopoulos referred to the problems with which Greece is faced today, and have to do with neighboring Turkey. These problems started off as jurisdictional issues (search and rescue), but grew to questioning of maritime zones and -even- sovereignty on Greek islands, as well as to Turkey’ questioning International Treaties. The speaker then listed the ways how Turkey is trying to cause escalation of tensions, so as for Greece’s margin of maneuver to be exhausted, thus ‘testing’ the limits of Greece’s patience, and taking advantage of own produced faits accomplis. In order for Greece to effectively and adequately react in the face of such provocations, Intelligence Services, decision-making at both political and military level, and diplomacy need to form a coordinated nexus of cooperation.
The next speaker, Mr. Stribis, presented cases of concluded maritime zones delimitation agreements in the East Mediterranean. He pointed out to the fact that an undetermined border constitutes a source of unrest. The “3-stage methodology” regarding EEZ and continental shelf delimitation so as for an “equitable solution” to be achieved for all parties, was explained next. Mr. Stribis referred to examples of maritime zones delimitation by recourse to international judicial organs, such as the Nicaragua-Colombia and Romania-Ukraine cases, but also to examples of maritime delimitation bilateral agreements in the East Mediterranean. The above were graphically exemplified in maps showing not only existing delimitations in the East Mediterranean, but also East Mediterranean states’ claims to contested EEZ and continental shelf.
Mr. Myrianthis’ presentation focused on hydrogen prospection and exploration in Greek continental shelf, and on energy interconnectors in the eastern Mediterranean -with a clear emphasis on the East Med pipeline, and on Turkish aspirations towards the building of an Israeli-Turkish one. Special mention was made of the lack of political will to embark on exploratory exercises, which transcends all political parties, and cannot be entirely attributed to the “phobic syndrome”, because no exploration activity has taken place in the -already delimited- Ionian Sea and southwest of Crete either, where the “phobic syndrome” appears to be irrelevant. A plausible explanation for the standstill could be the combination of internal and external factors in synergy with a certain immobility that characterizes the Greek public sector. The presentation came to an end with a timeline of all explorative and attempts to explorative exercises undertaken in Greek territory, and with a commentary on EU efforts to diversify from its gas supplier, Russia, by substituting Russian gas with gas from third countries.
Last, Mr. Valinakis outlined the current political environment in the East Mediterranean Sea, as shaped after the war of Russia against Ukraine. What is evident is that the post-war status quo is being undermined, with the emergence of powers that make claims to and act towards the establishment of a multipolar international system. Western response to the Russian attack lacked determination, given that the West’s deterrence strategy failed and its reaction was not clear-cut. The Russian invasion opened up the can of worms, and is shifting the balance of powers in the eastern Mediterranean. The East Med pipeline and the Map of Seville, of which Greece did not make good use so as to make a profit out of them, also made the subject of Professor Valinakis’ presentation.
The virtual meeting ended with questions on the East Med pipeline, potential obstruction of Cyprus’ prospection and exploration activities by Turkish frigates, recent NATO exercise in the Dodecanese islands, and the median line method for delimiting the EEZ.
5th MEETING PRESS RELEASE
The fifth -and last- meeting of the second cycle of seminars entitled “The EU External Borders Management in Evros, the Aegean and East Mediterranean” was held online -and via the Webex platform- on Thursday, June 23 2022. The specific topic treated in this meeting was “The External Borders of Greece and the EU, and relations with Turkey”.
Professor at the University of Athens and President of the Jean Monnet European Centre of Excellence of the University of Athens, Yannis Valinakis coordinated the meeting, while Konstantinos Loukopoulos, Lieutenant General (ret.); Fani Daskalopoulou-Livada, Honorary Legal Adviser at the Hellenic MFA, and Manolis Perrakis, Assistant Professor at the Law School of the National and Kapodistrian University of Athens, shared their knowledge with the audience, and participated in the discussion.
Mr. Loukopoulos spoke about Turkish revisionism that remains unchanged through time, and about the consequences this revisionism entais for Greece. In this context, Greece has to defend its national interests, especially its territorial integrity and even own survival. The strategy of deterrence was analyzed next -a strategy that, according to Mr. Loukopoulos, needs to be declaratory, in order to be effective, i.e., to have an actual deterrent effect. If the deterrence strategy is declaratory, a successful combination of capabilities and intentions can be achieved. In his presentation he also stressed the need for Greece to elaborate a coherent national defense strategy, where the country’s aims will be in line with its fiscal capacity.
Ms. Fani Daskalopoulou-Livada presented the Turkish claims on the Aegean islands, and Greece’s response to these claims -a response that is in full compliance with International Treaties. The 1923 Lausanne Treaty unequivocally confirmed Greek sovereignty over the Aegean islands, and without any differentiation according to any criterion, such as size or human habitation. With the 1947 Paris Peace Treaty, Italy ceded sovereignty over the Dodecanese islands to Greece. Consequently, Greece also succeeded Italy to the Agreement of 4 January 1932 and the Protocol of 28 December 1932, signed between Italy and Turkey, whereby the status of the Dodecanese islands and of the relevant sea area were determined. Therefore, Turkish claims are groundless, because Greece is a successor to Italy state, territorial and border treaties are permanent, and the 1947 Paris Treaty is for Turkey a res inter alios acta. In 1995, the Turkish National Assembly, in breach of the International Law of the Sea, declared that an extension of Greece’s Territorial Sea to 12 n.m. constitutes casus belli. It goes without saying that, in any such case Greece can exercise its jus cogens right to self-defense, conferred upon states by virtue of Art. 51 of the UN Charter.
The last speaker, Mr. Perrakis, described the EU solidarity and mutual assistance clauses, which can be put into effect in case of threat against the EU external border. The Solidarity Clause is established in Art. 122 of the TFEU, and provides for mutual assistance should a Member State is seriously threatened with severe difficulties caused by natural disasters or exceptional occurrences beyond its control (e.g., terrorist attack), while Art. 42 of the TEU Mutual Assistance Clause can be activated if a Member State is the victim of armed aggression on its own territory. In this case, other Member States have towards the attacked Member State an obligation of aid and assistance by all means in their power, in accordance with Art. 51 of the UN Charter, and without prejudice to their obligations as NATO members. However, the implementation of the above clauses has not been without problems. These problems could be overcome if the EU was further federalized, that is, if member states explicitly transferred and conferred upon the EU jurisdiction on security and defense matters.
The seminar closed with Mr. Valinakis summarizing what has been said, and with Q&As about Greek deterrence, the Cyprus Issue, Greek counterarguments to the unsubstantiated Turkish claims and, last, the potential activation of the Solidarity Clause in the event of instrumentalized non-EU individuals massively entering an EU Member State’s territory.