Italy and Greece reshuffle the cards in the Mediterranean

Italy and Greece reached yesterday (9 June) a critical deal on demarcating Exclusive Economic Zones in the Mediterranean between them. Athens is now eyeing a similar deal with Egypt, in a move that will probably make the Mediterranean puzzle even more complex.

Why? Because in practice such a deal would cancel a controversial MoU on maritime zones recently signed between Turkey and the UN-backed Government of National Accord (GNA) in Tripoli, led by Faiez el-Serraj.

Both the US and EU have described as illegal the latter MoU,  which ignores the island of Crete.

Greek PM Kyriakos Mitsotakis said the Greece-Italy deal is actually proof of good bilateral relations between neighbours. Its more practical aim, though is to put an end to Turkey’s ambitions to start drilling for gas in the Mediterranean and particularly, in Greek waters.

For this reason, on 18 June, Greek foreign minister Nikos Dendias is visiting Cairo to speed up the procedure for a similar deal with Egypt, which is apparently more difficult to reach.

However, on a political level, it might prove easier, considering that Egypt backs the Tobruk-based Libyan National Army, led by General Khalifa Haftar, who effectively runs the eastern part of the country.

Asked by EURACTIV, the European Commission declined comment on the deal between Athens and Rome. Despite public statements suggesting a greater EU role in Libya, it seems that Brussels prefers to remain an observer of the escalating situation.

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