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, outgoing minister Nikos Kotzias said at the handover ceremony at the foreign ministry on Saturday.
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.