Former Prime Minister Kostas Karamanlis issued the following statement:
“Mr. Simitis continues to praise the so-called ‘success’ of the Helsinki strategy. I am always highly skeptical about whether these public statements facilitate the handling of critical national issues, particularly in such a difficult phase that is now developing. However, this obsession and constant repetition eventually call for some things to be said, for reasons of historical accuracy. Also, I have to overlook the reference about a meeting that never took place, at least under these circumstances and with this content.
Let’s call a spade a spade: the alleged “successful” Helsinki strategy would eventually hand over Greek territorial integrity and Greek sovereignty over islands and islets to the jurisdiction of the International Court of Justice in the Hague! From the Imia incident to the Helsinki compromise, the Simitis government was virtually asking the United States and our European partners to put pressure on Turkey in order to lodge a complaint with the Hague over Imia and the so-called “grey zones”.It made sure that respective provisions would be included in official European documents. Never before has a state, especially a European one, asked the whole world for a third country to seek a legal ruling doubting its own territorial integrity! The Madrid Agreement, in July 1997, was also a serious setback. It was then recognized that Turkey has legal and vital interests in the Aegean, which are of the utmost importance for its safety and national sovereignty, and, thus, that Greece could no longer unilaterally exercise any of its rights! Obviously, not even its unilateral right to extend its territorial waters, a right that the International Law explicitly provides to every state.
In 1999 with the Helsinki compromise, the EU, acting as another “Pontius Pilate”, would follow up Turkey’s claim lodged with the International Court of Justice of ‘outstanding border differences and other related issues’ even up until 2004! Not only regarding the continental shelf and Exclusive Economic Zone, which is the only difference that all Greek governments have recognized since 1974. And not through a mutual arbitration agreement with Greece, but unilaterally! This means that Turkey alone would determine the issues in question on its own. And, since Greece was still accepting the mandatory jurisdiction of The Hague at that time, it would have no choice on the matter. Greece would automatically accept the unprecedented: that its territories, its sovereignty, and everything else that Turkey deemed as”relevant” would be subject to a judicial ruling. And, while in Helsinki Turkey was finally getting what it had been eagerly pursuing for 36 years, that is its designation as a candidate country for EU membership, Greece did not even manage to take in return the obvious: the removal of the casus belli state and Ankara’s pledge to actually respect International Law in general, and the Law of the Sea in particular. Instead, we ended up putting our own territorial integrity into question.
Furthermore, Mr. Simitis states in his article that our unresolved differences with Turkey concern not only the continental shelf, but also our territorial waters! Since when? He even accuses us that we did not utilize ‘Helsinki’ to “solve” this issue as well! It seems that this is why the Simitis government was negotiating with Turkey exclusively the non-negotiable right to extend our territorial waters to 12 nm! In order to “resolve” the issue of the continental shelf – which “Helsinki” merged with all the other Turkish claims – in a way acceptable to Turkey!
In December 2004, when the onset of Turkey’s EU accession negotiations in Brussels was being examined, our priority was indeed to disengage from the faits accomplis of the Helsinki compromise. I believed and still firmly believe that, apart from the continental shelf / EEZ, nothing else that Turkey puts into question can be negotiated or ruled in a court. Helsinki’s precedent was now a reality, but it had to be vitiated. We added the clause that we will go to The Hague ” only if necessary”, in order to avoid being dragged to court for issues that do not exist. We formulated a new strategy that turned our Greek- Turkish problems into Euro-Turkish problems. The EU, from handing over our territorial integrity to The Hague, which is unthinkable, now monitored itself, and with our active participation, Turkey’s compliance with good neighborly relations and International Law, as a prerequisite for Turkey’s accession process (Negotiating Framework with Turkey, October 2005).
Additional evidence of the dangers surrounding the“Helsinki” compromise is provided by the fact that it was formally “buried” in January 2015 by the Samaras government. With a statement submitted by the then Minister of Foreign Affairs, Ev. Venizelos, to the United Nations, our country declared that it does not recognize the mandatory jurisdiction of the International Court of Justice over matters concerning our territorial sovereignty, including our territorial waters.
“It is indeed true that I have different views to Mr. Simitis and to those who share his opinions. For us, things are crystal clear. We do not negotiate our national sovereignty and we do not seek anyone’s ruling on it. The only issue to be resolved with Turkey: the continental shelf / EEZ. Different perceptions on the matter will always find me on the opposite side.”