From: Bledar Qalliu
Rama Blasts Critics over Greece’s Extension of Territorial Waters

Prime Minister Edi Rama has blasted his critics over Greece’s maritime extension, one day after news of the neighboring country’s decision to double its territorial waters in the Ionian Sea became public in Albania.

On Friday, Greek newspaper Protothema wrote that the country’s Supreme Administrative Court, called Council of State, has approved Greece’s extension of territorial waters in the Ionian Sea, shared with Albania and Italy, from 6 to 12 nautical miles.

Civil society and opposition political parties in Albania accused Rama of having agreed behind scenes with the Greek government to reach an agreement on the maritime delimitation between the two countries at Albania’s disadvantage. 

Albania and Greece signed such an agreement in 2009. Rama’s party, then in opposition, took it to the Constitutional Court which nullified it due to violations of the Constitution and territorial integrity.

The main issue was the status of some rocky, uninhabited Greek islands with no economic life, located close to the Albanian shore, which the 2009 agreement considered as Greek land in full effect.

Rama has now agreed with the Greek government to take the case of maritime delimitation between the two countries to the International Court of Justice. The news was made public during the Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendia’s visit to Albania.

It came after the two governments had negotiated intensively for about a year since 2018 on a new agreement. Negotiations were discontinued without public explanation after the two top negotiators, the ministers of foreign affairs in Greece and Albania resigned and were sacked, respectively.

With the new government of Kyriakos Mitsotakis coming to power in 2019, negotiations were expected to resume but it never happened.

Instead, the Greek government announced that it would double its territorial waters in the Ionian Sea. Responding to critics in Albania, Rama strongly supported Greece’s right to do so, and slammed his critics for being “nationalists”.

The two prime ministers met in Athens to discuss the issue but the content of talks was not made public. 

Rama and Dendias later announced in Tirana that they had orally agreed to take the case of the maritime delimitation to the International Court of Justice.

However, the Greek government announced it would first double its territorial waters then go to the court. Rama supported the plan as Greece’s right in accordance with international laws.

Now that the decision was taken in Greece, and with criticism amounting in Albania, on Saturday, Rama launched an attack against “ignorants” who throw “nationalist-folklorist mud” and accuse him of “selling out the country”.

Rama stated that they are trying to gain political points by accusing him, adding that making an agreement behind closed doors in the 21th century’s Europe is impossible.

He reiterated that the extension of Greece’s territorial waters to 12 nautical miles is its right, and it’s unrelated to the maritime delimitation with Albania. Wherever the distance between the two countries is less than 12 miles, it will be the ICJ to decide the delimitation, he said.

The prime minister published Albania’s decision to extend its territorial waters to 12 nautical miles in 1990, adding that just as Greece didn’t oppose this back then, Albania also has no reason to oppose Greece’s decision now.

His critics maintain that by not opposing Greece’s extension of territorial waters to 12 miles at the United Nations, the Albanian government is letting part of its territory slip away, and paving the way for Greece to strengthen its case at the International Court of Justice. They add that Albania had no reason to agree on taking the case to the ICJ.

Moreover, they accuse Rama of lack of transparency regarding his meetings and unofficial agreements with Mitsotakis and other Greek officials.