I would like to congratulate the Hellenic Society of International Law and International Relations for the organization of the Symposium on International Law in Rhodes and Kastellorizo.
The topic you have chosen is extremely interesting and timely, with multiple dimensions, requiring a comprehensive legal-political consideration.
Border stability continues to be a fundamental principle for the organization of the international community.
The United Nations Charter provides for the obligation to abstain from the threat or use of violence against the territorial integrity of other states.
Borders exist objectively. They apply erga omnes. The law of treaties precludes invoking a substantial change in circumstances as a reason for the termination of treaties delimiting borders.
The years 2020 and 2021 were landmark years for the borders of our country. Over this period our country increased its sovereign footprint. It secured its sovereign rights and jurisdiction.
Over a period of a few months, Greece signed two Agreements on the delimitation of maritime zones with Italy and Egypt. Also, a political agreement was reached with Albania to have recourse to the International Court of Justice in The Hague on this issue.
In February, our country extended its territorial waters to 12 nautical miles in the Ionian Sea, down to Cape Tainaro. National territory was extended by over 13,000 square kilometers.
It is the first time since 1947 that Parliament adopted an extension of national sovereignty. Our country reserves the right to exercise this right, whenever it is deemed appropriate to national interests and where international law allows it.
The agreement with Italy in June 2020 makes use of the maritime boundary the two states had agreed upon in 1977. A pending issue that lasted many years has been settled.
In August 2020 our country signed an agreement with Egypt on the delimitation of the Exclusive Economic Zone, always on the basis of the International Law of the Sea. This Agreement had tangible consequences against the illegal, invalid and non-existent Turkish-Libyan Memorandum and the usual Turkish positions on the sovereign rights of states in the region.
Ladies and gentlemen,
Recent developments have highlighted the challenges that front-line states face as regards border protection, especially in managing migratory flows. In February 2020, Turkey attempted to instrumentalize tens of thousands of migrants and refugees.
Greece took appropriate action to deal with this unprecedented attempt to violate Greek borders. It was an attempt which had a clear origin.
The European Court of Human Rights stipulates the obligation of states to protect their borders, in a manner consistent with the guarantees provided for by the European Convention of Human Rights.
Greek Authorities make tireless efforts for the protection of human life both at land and sea borders. Over the period 2015-2020, the Coastguard rescued 320.000 migrants and refugees.
Particular reference should also be made to the incidents at the borders of Poland, Latvia and Lithuania with Belarus. These incidents are a demonstration of the extent of the instrumentalization of the migrant/refugee issue. Greece will not allow the recurrence of the instrumentalization of the migrant/refugee issue, following the events in Afghanistan.
In conclusion, I would like to emphasize that respect for International Law is the cornerstone of our foreign policy. Only in this way can unlawful conducts and revisionist aspirations and practices be addressed.
Our country defends land and sea borders against any risk and threat, always respecting international law. It does so, not with a rationale of entrenchment or withdrawal but, on the contrary, through excellent cooperation with other countries in our region which share the same values with us.