The significance of the Natura 2000 network and the protection afforded to Natura 2000 territories under international treaties and European law were the focus of a speech given by President of the Republic Prokopios Pavlopoulos at the defence ministry on Monday on “The borders and territory of Greece as borders and territory of the EU. The ‘added institutional value’ of the Natura 2000 network.”
The president underlined that all Natura 2000 regions in Greece, irrespective of their size or whether they were inhabited, are within Greek and EU borders.
“It is common knowledge that in the framework of European and international rule of law, that primarily the Treaty of Lausanne of 1923 and that of Paris in 1947 define, exactly and without any problems of interpretation, the borders, territory and the sovereignty over these territories of Greece, without any trace of a ‘grey zone’- especially at sea – and without being open, through their very nature, to revision or updating. For this reason, the only ‘open’ issue between Greece and Turkey is that of delineating the island continental shelf,” Pavlopoulos said.
European legislation for the Natura 2000 network, which precisely outlined the protected ecosystems within the European Union, served to further reinforce the above-mentioned measures regarding the borders and territory of the EU, Pavlopoulos added.
In the process of creating the Natura 2000 network, he noted, the areas proposed by the EU member-states were evaluated by the European Commission and incorporated in the European list of Natura 2000 Network areas, then displayed on the relevant maps using biogeographical criteria. The lists and maps relating to Greece were later published in the Official Journal of the European Union in 2006, he pointed out.
This process also included marine ecosystems and reefs and under-sea formations created by gas emissions, which were implemented and applied beyond the member-states territorial waters, namely in both their continental shelf and their Exclusive Economic Zone. This gave each member-states both rights and obligations to take the protective measures envisaged in the ad hoc exercise of their sovereign rights, the president pointed out.
These rights and obligations were clearly laid out in the European Commission’s “Guidelines for the establishment of the Natura 2000 network in the marine environment” issued in May 2007, he added, whose interpretation on the spatial implementation of the directives was also adopted by the EU Court of Justice in several cases.
“The above facts regarding the areas included in the Natura 2000 Network proved that these areas – including every kind of islet, without their size and a fortiori whether these are inhabited or not having any legal significance – are within the borders of Greece and the EU,” Pavlopoulos said. Consequently, he concluded, any claims raised by Turkey from time to time were groundless and completely arbitrary and in direct contradiction with international and European law.