An unresolved exclusive economic zone dispute between Greece and Albania over territorial rights in the Ionian Sea has become even more complicated as a result of Russia’s war in Ukraine, a conflict that has turned the Ionian and Adriatic sea areas into a hotbed of confrontation between NATO and Russia.
According to a recent report published by Italian daily La Reppublica, numerous incidents, both minor and more intense, have taken place in the Adriatic and Ionian seas between the escorting forces of the US 6th Fleet aircraft carrier Harry Truman and Russian warships. At least one of these incidents took place off Corfu, military sources have informed.
The naval incidents in the region are a result of its increased strategic importance for NATO with regards to the war in Ukraine as well as military preparations for any possible spread of the conflict beyond Ukraine.
Greece and Albania, following an agreement between the two countries, have begun procedures to take their Ionian Sea EEZ dispute to the International Court of Justice in The Hague. The consequences of the Ukraine war add to the issue’s complexity.
Energean and ELPE (Hellenic Petroleum), both holders of licenses in the Ionian Sea, are working to explore the region’s hydrocarbon prospects.
Athens, along with other EU administrations, especially in Europe’s south, will be hoping for a brave European response to the energy crisis’ exorbitant prices at this week’s summit of EU leaders, scheduled for March 24 and 25.
Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis has joined forces with his counterparts from Italy, Spain and Portugal ahead of this week’s summit. The four leaders are hoping action, rather than just good intentions, as expressed by Europe’s north during an unofficial meeting a fortnight ago, will be taken.
That session highlighted a lack of agreement on the issue of a Eurobond as a common solution to help consumers in Europe cope with extremely higher energy prices.
Some analysts believe long negotiations could be needed at the forthcoming summit, as was the case in 2020, when European leaders worked for five days to eventually approve the Recovery and Resilience Facility as a means of helping economies bounce back from the impact of the pandemic.
Other analysts fear US president Joe Biden’s participation in the concurrent EU-NATO conference will overshadow talks for energy market intervention, postponing needed action for a next session.
Energy minister Giorgos Stathakis will head a Greek delegation of key energy-sector figures on a visit to the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) for energy investment talks with FYROM government officials on September 24 and 25.
The visit has been timed just days ahead of the neighboring country’s September 30 referendum asking voters if they support EU and NATO membership by accepting a recent agreement between their country and Greece over a new name for FYROM, the Republic of Northern Macedonia, to be used for both domestic and international purposes.
The name dispute, 27 years long, has kept the smaller and younger country out of international institutions.
The two sides have not ruled out the signing – during the two-day visit – of Memorandums of Cooperation for energy projects that would provide energy security to the neighboring country and highlight Greece’s prospective role as an energy hub.
Representatives of Greek natural gas grid operator DESFA, Hellenic Petroleum (ELPE) and power grid operator IPTO will join Stathakis, the energy minister, on the visit, also seen as an attempt by Greece to encourage a “yes” vote in the referendum.