Mediterranean Sea constitutes an important sea way for international trade and energy transportation. As for Europe, Mediterranean Sea is valuable for its safety, stability and prosperity. This lecture examines recent maritime security threats and challenges in Eastern Mediterranean in conjunction to major geopolitical and energy developments in the broader area. These security threats and challenges possibly set the conditions for a future crisis, bluntly affecting Europe. After an epigrammatic evaluation of European maritime security strategy, the lecture places relative conclusions and recommendations.
GEOPOLITICAL ENVIRONMENT OF E. MEDITERRANEAN
The Eastern Mediterranean Sea is a major strategic point for international shipping and commerce. Since the strategic environment in this area is shaped by external forces from the Levant, Eurasia, Black Sea, Africa and the Atlantic basin, its security has been progressively globalized.
The discovery of hydrocarbon resources in the East Mediterranean offers opportunities, but it also raises the potential for conflict over these resources. Additional destabilizing factors are the war in Syria, the Arab-Israeli conflict and the unresolved Cyprus issue.
Russian Federation is actively involved into this area seeking influence and political, security, military, economic and energy gains. China is paving the way of a new Silk Road through the broader region and keeps close relations with resource-rich states in Africa and the Gulf region.
The US focus on the Pacific Ocean has led to a reduction of its naval presence in the Mediterranean area. The level of a common strategic approach between US and the EU will shape the evolutions in E. Mediterranean.
The situation in Mediterranean has resulted in two fundamental documents: NATO Alliance Maritime Strategy (AMS), of 2011, and the EU Maritime Security Strategy (EUMSS), of 2014.
THREATS AND CHALLENGES. WHY RECENT DEVELOPMENTS ARE IMPORTANT FOR EU.
The EU faces several critical challenges, from security threats coming from Middle East, Africa and Russia to an adjustment to a changing world. Between various destabilizing factors, irregular mass migration is the most challenging.
Europe is energy depended and imports most raw materials by sea. Some of the world’s main maritime routes’ choke points lie in the EU’s maritime borders. Therefore, it is in the EU’s highest priorities to ensure that these trade routes are free of threats and challenges. The following activities threaten the free and safe use of E. Mediterranean:
• Influence competition between super powers *Disputes over territorial and maritime borders between coastal nations • Illegal immigration • Human trafficking and smuggling * maritime terrorism *Illegal and unregulated fishing (IUU) * Narcotics trafficking • Oil bunkering and smuggling • Environmental degradation (such as the dumping of toxic waste at sea) • Arms trafficking • Cyber threats for shipping * Maritime accidents • Movement of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) * Piracy
The still unresolved division of Cyprus, the territorial and border Turkish claims over Greece as well as diverse interpretations of national EEZ (Greece, Turkey, Israel, Cyprus, Lebanon), are causes for a potential conflict.
Regarding the environmental aspect, a possible ecological disaster will have a serious impact for the whole region.
THE CHALLENGE OF ENERGY IN E. MEDITERRANEAN
The development of energy projects between Israel, Egypt, Cyprus and Greece set the conditions for a new Eastern Mediterranean energy corridor providing in the future energy supplies to the EU. Additionally the EuroAsia Interconnector, an electricity cable of 2000 MW, between Israel, Cyprus and Greece, enables the connection to the European electricity system.
The strategic cooperation between Greece, Cyprus, Israel and Egypt, should avoid any axis against regional countries and the logic of a zero sum game. Those four countries should try to promote cooperation with the U.S., NATO, EU and other willing regional Countries.
The energy export route from E. Mediterranean to Europe has not yet been finalized. The choice of LNG plants would benefit Greece since there is already a relative infrastructure, several Greek ship owners have invested in LNG carriers and Greece could be part of natural gas network that will link Sothern and North Europe through a number of Balkan and Central European interconnectors.
European Union has decided to include the East Med Pipeline in its revised list of projects of common interest. The EASTMED pipeline constitutes a physical connection between the E. Mediterranean and Europe and would give Europe the incentive to become more deeply engaged in the area.
The Southern Gas Corridor can play an important role in EU’s energy security. The Trans Adriatic Pipeline (TAP) can be a leading transit hub on the southern-northern axis by a series of interconnecting pipelines, like IGB. In addition to TAP, Greece has the chance to exploit the potential hydrocarbon deposits in western Greece and in the maritime areas south and southeast of Crete. Greece could consider its participation to the Russian-proposed “Turkish/Greek Stream” which will replace existing pipelines through Ukraine.
The Turkish expansive policy against Greece and Cyprus is a challenging issue of instability in E. Mediterranean. For Turkey, existing status quo, International Justice and treaties have to be updated and adjusted in order to fulfill its vision about «the land and sea borders of its heart». According to Turkish geopolitical perception the Greek islands and Cyprus pose strategic pressure on Turkey and set obstacles to its revisionist peripheral hegemonic ambitions, especially after the discovery of hydrocarbon resources. Additionally the Turkish military buildup creates concerns about a possible arms race in the region.
As for the European member of Cyprus, Turkey is the only Country in Earth that does not recognize its existence but at the same time is ready to negotiate with it and to be a candidate member in EU. The Cyprus issue is basically an issue of illegal invasion and occupation according to UN resolutions. A viable solution is of vital importance for the stability of E. Mediterranean. The principles and provisions of EU provide all the necessary assurances that all the communities on the Island will be safe and prosperous. Turkey’s obsession that any solution should include its right to be a guarantor on an EU Country like Cyprus and to keep troops on the Island serves clearly only its national interests and not peace and stability in the area.
Energy companies invested in the region are eager to begin full development and exploitation of the fields that have already been explored. Cyprus’ EEZ is recognized by the United Nations, EU, United States, Russia, Israel, Egypt, Greece, and Lebanon. Greek Cypriots have committed to equitably sharing the profits from energy resources with Turkish Cypriots upon reunification of the island.
The EU’s direct involvement in E. Mediterranean as a consumer, as an investor, and as a technical provider will be critical. The UN, the US and EU could establish a regional multilateral system in E. Mediterranean committed to the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, with protected infrastructure, in order to promote stability and prosperity.
THE MASS IRREGULAR MIGRATION ISSUE
Besides European intense demographic problem, EU faces mass irregular migration from Asia and Africa, which divides member states, affects social cohesion, increases euroskepticism and creates centrifugal trends. Southern countries like Greece and Italy are directly exposed on the front line of migration.
Before undertaking any immigration and integration policy, Europe should answer several questions like the following:
• What is the immigration quantitative limit for not affecting the European identity?
• What are the causes of Islamic terrorism and what is the place of religion in a secular Europe (religious pluralism, renewal of Christian cultural identity or more radical secularism)?
• How much realistic is the view that the shrinking European population can be replaced by immigrants from Asia and Africa?
• What should be the level of immigrants integration: assimilation or some degree of multicultural integration?
CURRENT EU POLICY
The EU response to the whole spectrum of security challenges is the EU Global Strategy stated in 2016. Its main points are the implementation of security and defence strategy, the European Defence Action Plan (EDAP) and strengthening EU-NATO cooperation.
EUROPEAN MARITIME SECURITY STRATEGY
Maritime security can be understood as a set of policies, regulations, measures and operations to secure the maritime domain.
The UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), governs all international maritime matters and provides responses to maritime security challenges. Even countries that have not ratified UNCLOS rely on it for resolving legal problems.
During the Hellenic Presidency a European Maritime Security Strategy was adopted in June 2014, which is based on a partnership between military and civilian actors and a European integrated maritime surveillance.
The founding principles of the EU Maritime Security Strategy are multilateralism, respect for human rights and promotion of the rule of law. The corresponding action plan is based on five pillars: External Action; Maritime Awareness, Surveillance and Information Sharing; Capability Development; Risk Management, Protection of Critical Maritime Infrastructure and Crisis Response and Maritime Security Research and Innovation, Education and Training. You may see on the screen some of the most important existing maritime surveillance systems.
MAIN PROBLEMS FOR IMPLEMENTING EMSS
The main obstacles in implementing EMSS are the following:
1. A large number of participants are engaged in Maritime issues and they all need to cooperate.
2. Maritime surveillance is strongly linked with national sovereignty, and is therefore mainly conducted at the national level.
EUROPEAN MARITIME SECURITY OPERATIONS
Concerning Maritime Security Operations, what is needed is an holistic approach including a coordinated national inter-ministry, inter-governmental and multinational cooperation involving the International Organizations, multinational agencies and relevant actors. MSO requires at least political willingness, maximization of maritime domain awareness, the deployment of layered maritime security from the high seas to port facilities and cooperation with commercial shipping agencies.
THE ROLE OF NAVIES
The new maritime challenges of insecurity, create a gray area between the functions of a navy and a coast guard and accordingly critical decisions as for the ships equipment for fighting wars and law enforcement. A new generation of low cost naval platforms may be required to complement high end capabilities and suitable to counter Maritime Irregular Warfare (MIW).
THE ROLE OF GREECE.
Given the reduced presence of the US in E. Mediterranean and the limited defence expenditures in EU member states, maritime security in this area can be an integration pillar for the Common Security and Defense Policy.
Greece’s great geostrategic position at the crossroads of three continents, is vital in facing the growing instability in E. Mediterranean. The Greek significant role as a factor of stability and security, can only remain if its basic security concerns in the Aegean and the SE. Mediterranean are met. NATO has access in the crucial base of Souda Bay, as well as in several other facilities throughout the Country. Greece’s choice to be strategically connected to the Western institutions, is not based only on national interests but also on the cultural Western values of Greek heritage like Democracy and secular state.
Greece, a traditionally maritime nation, is part of the E. Mediterranean and since ancient times has maintained strong and unbroken bonds with the peoples and countries of the region. Today it keeps a comprehensive active diplomatic agenda with regional initiatives for stability and cooperation in Balkans, E. Mediterranean and M. East. At the same time it has an active policy of resolving the Cyprus issue on the basis of a fair and viable solution outlined in UN Security Council Resolutions. Greece promotes strong cooperation with Cyprus, Israel, Egypt, Lebanon, Palestine and Jordan. Finally, Greece – already a wellknown power in tourism and shipping- is strengthening its role as an energy and transport hub.
The Eastern Mediterranean Sea is a major strategic point. Recent geopolitical shifts have brought the progressive globalization of Mediterranean security.
The East Mediterranean’s gas resources can promote cooperation and contribute to the economic development and energy security of its regional Countries.
Russia plans to restore a credible presence in E. Mediterranean is likely to slow the US disengagement from this area.
The EU is directly involved in E. Mediterranean as an energy consumer, as an investor, as a technical provider and mostly as a Union with geographical land and sea borders in that area through Greece and Cyprus.
The Turkish expansive policy constitutes a challenging issue of instability in E. Mediterranean.
It is in the interests of UN, US and EU to keep stability in E. Mediterranean. Furthermore it is in the interests of US and EU the exploitation of energy recourses of that area and the supply of EU.
The mass irregular migration directly affects the European security, the cohesion and interstate and social solidarity.
The US, Russia and regional states should cooperate building measures of confidence and reducing the risk of confrontation in order to deter a crisis.
The UN, the US and EU could establish a multilateral system committed to the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, with protected infrastructure in E. Mediterranean. Member states in this institution could commit to mandatory arbitration with appeal to the International Court of Justice. The institution should be open to any state bordering the E. Mediterranean, provided that it accepts the legal standards for the dispute settlement. Claiming States outside of this institution should face a negative stance by UN, US and EU.
EU, should be more active and responsive in E. Mediterranean. The threats and challenges in that area do not concern only the countries of the “front line” but all the EU member states. E. Mediterranean offers an opportunity for EU to start implementing cooperation under the ESDP.
EU’s future geopolitcs, energy security and climate change are connected to its Eastern and Southern partners. EU should encourage regional cooperation and reforms, with possible financial or technical assistance and special emphasis in facing effectively migration, radicalization, terrorism, as well as trade, agricultural and fisheries issues.
The EU must pursue an effective migration policy based on solidarity and shared values. In this context it needs to prevent and deter irregular migration and promote legal and controlled migration. EU has to establish a common European asylum status and a fair relocation and distribution of migrants in Europe, by immediately reforming the Dublin Convention.
EU must have a reliable ability to perform Maritime Security Operations building a cooperation framework between its own member States and with third parties.
The strategic relationship between Greece, Cyprus, Israel and Egypt contributes to the desired stable and prosperous future of E. Mediterranean.
Greece a traditional maritime nation, member of EU, a strategic US ally and with privileged relationship with countries of the E. Mediterranean could play an important role to the stabilization of the region.
An area of strategic importance like E. Mediterranean has to be safe and prosperous. The situation in this area is promising provided that the main destabilizing factors are to be faced effectively. Proactive and active measures and initiatives have to be taken now since peace, freedom, security, prosperity and justice are not to be taken for granted.
13 November 2018
Vice Admiral (rtrd) V. Martzoukos HN
Honorable CO of Hellenic Naval Academy (HNA)
President of Hellenic Institute for Strategic Studies (HELISS)
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