In his speech at the handover ceremony at the foreign ministry on Saturday, outgoing minister Nikos Kotzias welcomed the vote held in neighbouring FYROM to press ahead with the constitutional changes outlined in the Prespes Agreement and said he was experiencing the paradox of having resigned and yet feeling happy.
“I am happy that we have made a hopeful step for the Prespes Agreement,” Kotzias said. “I thank the prime minister for the honour and the opportunity that he gave me to contend with the issues of foreign policy. We have made a step forward in the FYROM issue. I want to thank Zoran Zaev and the 80 MPs.”
He also revealed that Greece was poised to extend its territorial waters to 12 miles, through two presidential decrees that were in the final stages of preparation at the foreign ministry.
“I a very proud that with your guidance, Mr. Prime Minister, we sent 93 corruption cases to the public prosecutor,” Kotzias added and strongly criticised the furore concerning the ministry’s secret accounts.
“Democracy cannot work without seriousness and responsibility,” he added, noting that if the claims made were true, it was as if third countries were being warned not to cooperate with Greeks because they might embarrass them.
Summarising his nearly four-year term at the head of the ministry, Kotzias said that Greece was now a country that was heard and taken into account, based on its active and multidimensional foreign policy.
Among them he listed the progress made with Albania, including the agreement to ensure a proper burial of Greece’s WWII fallen in that country, the FYROM issue and the change in the agenda of the Cyprus issue.
“I leave having completed the great step of the ‘FYROM issue’ with your support, prime minister. I leave happy,” Kotzias said.
Kotzias submitted his resignation to the prime minister on Wednesday, following a clash with Defence Minister Panos Kammenos, the head of the junior party in the coalition government.
Greece poised to expand its sovereignty after 70 years, Kotzias reveals
Greece was on the verge of embarking on a crucial policy that would see its sovereignty expand for the first time in 70 years, since the Dodecanese islands were added to its territory, Kotzias revealed at the handover ceremony.
Announcing the preparation at the foreign ministry of draft presidential decrees that extend the country’s territorial waters to 12 miles, from the island of Othonoi to the island of Antikythera, Kotzias said these were now essentially ready.
He explained that the process for extending the country’s territorial waters from six miles to 12 had three steps, all of which were now completed: “The first step is to close off the bays, the second step is create base lines everywhere, together with the bays, and the third step, based on these, is to carry out the extension from six to 12 miles.”
“The country is extending itself to 12 miles, except in the narrow places where we will go with the principle of the middle line,” he said.
This would also make things easier for Greece in deciding its EEZ with Italy and Albania, he added, clarifying that Greece was extending its sovereignty in this way because these were not sovereign rights along the lines of the EEZ but represented regular “territorial sovereignty”.
“The expansion up to Antikythera in accordance with the government’s instructions is the first presidential decree,” he said, while the second was almost complete and concerned waters from Antikythera to Crete. He noted that this will first have to be checked by international cartographers, while that from Antikythera to the Saronic Gulf and from the Saronic Gulf to the Pagasitikos Gulf, including Evia, will need remeasuring.
“The plan is that, by stages, we will manage to complete this as a government,” he said, while noting that the thinking behind it was that “we should not deprive ourselves of rights” while waiting for negotiations with Turkey on the Aegean continental shelf to be completed.
Kotzias pointed out that extending the terrotorial waters expanded Greece’s area of national sovereignty and that as a coastal state, Greece would be exercising all its legal rights.
“For our friends and allies for whatever economic or other activity within the territorial waters, they must ask our permission, which they did not do until now, and pay the price foreseen under each agreement,” he added.