In a previous article (“To the Hague”, October 2019) this column warned that Greece and Turkey were rapidly converging to a point beyond which an armed conflict would be difficult to be avoided. That the temperature was rising to a degree beyond which the slightest. Sparkle could cause an explosion.
This view may ―to rational observers―, appear as a rather nervous exaggeration. But politicians do not always tend to be rational. Their domestic priorities come first. The temptation of playing to the galleries of their respective theaters often becomes irresistible; and it is not there where the more enlightened and civilized among the spectators are to be found.
Ankara’s aggressive attitude everywhere, to all azimuths, vis a vis all its neighbours is self-evident.
More particularly, as it regards Greece, Turkey’s claims relating to the resources of Eastern Mediterranean are grossly irrational.
The Greek side is far from blameless though. While their own interpretation of the UNICLOS was ―and remains― rigidly maximalistic: Furthermore, all Greek governments have since the very beginning of the dispute on the delimitation of the territorial waters and the Economic Exclusive Zones of the two countries, in the late 1970’s, either formally rejected or stubbornly avoided both: negotiations of any significant form and the jurisdiction of the International Court of Justice at the Hague.
It does not serve any practical purpose to reiterate what we have already explained almost ad nauseam in our previous issues.
We prefer to focus on what can and must be done now, before it is too late.
Greece must take the road to the Hague. But, first, must be withdrawn a letter (Jan. 15, 2015) by which the Greek government had, then, formally stated that Greece does not recognize the jurisdiction of the Court on matters related to the delimitation of territorial waters ―and thus, almost on anything else in the sphere of the Law of the Sea.
The attitude of almost all on the Greek side, vis a vis the Court of Hague, has never been very friendly― especially after a verdict (March 2012) upholding a recourse of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia ―as it was then, Macedonia―, against Greece.
Suspicion had always prevailed that the Court is “under the sway of major Powers”. The verdicts of the Court on pilot Law of the Sea cases elsewhere opposing Greece’s own interpretations of the UNICLOS ―e.g. on Channel Islands― had only caused Greek diffidence and hostility towards the Court to increase.
In brief, many Greek prejudices as to the integrity of the Court ―sometimes publicly expressed―, must be abandoned. Fortunately, it appears that this has already started happening. The words International Justice and the name of the capital of the Netherlands are being uttered ―but still courteously, almost as an afterthought―, by Greek politicians who until very recently, had only unkind things to say either for the Court or those ― not so many― who were protesting at the absurdity of Greece’s constant refusal to turn to this august institution, offered by the international community, as a central mechanism, for the peaceful resolution of disputes.
A few months ago, this column dared criticize Greece’s denial, in 2004, to implement the arrangement decided upon at the European Summit of Helsinki (1999) and go together with Turkey to the Hague. Many authoritative readers reacted vigorously; and all the more so to our text of last October.
Now, almost suddenly, a consensus for the Hague gradually appears to emerge. Most modern pedagogues agree that fear cannot infuse good sense.
Fortunately ―and hopefully―, it can…