Opinion | | Kotoulas: Libya & Greece, Partners in the Mediterranean


Libya and Greece are neighbours in the Mediterranean, two states with close historical ties bound by geography to share common interests on various fields and with common prospects for the future. The time has come for a new perception of regional alliances in the Mediterranean. The signing of a full EEZ deal between Libya and Greece based on previous contacts and on international law is the necessary step for Libya to be fully connected to the European Union.

The recent visit by the Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis and the Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias to Tripoli and the new visit by the Greek Foreign Minister to Benghazi are great steps towards bilateral ties and greater regional stability. During the last days, the Greek leadership met with Prime Minister Prime Minister of the Government of National Unity Abd Alhamid Aldabaiba in Tripoli, with Libyan Deputy PM Hussein Atiya Abdul Hafeez Al Qatrani, the Mayor of Benghazi Saqr Bujwari and the President of the House of Representatives Aguila Saleh Issa in Benghazi. Finally, head of Libya’s Presidential Council Mohammed Al-Mnifi visited Athens. The two countries agreed in reopening the Greek Embassy in Tripoli and the Greek Consulate in Benghazi. These official visits mark the will of the two countries to establish cooperation in all fields.

There are two essential steps that must be undertaken for the effective restoration of Libya as a partner of the European Union. First, Libya and Greece should sign an agreement for the full delimitation of the whole extent of their national Exclusive Economic Zones based on their previous diplomatic contacts. Such a bilateral agreement will provide the proper delimitation of the EEZs in accordance with the legal provisions of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. Both countries have signed and accepted this fundamental legal document. The time has come to implement it and create new geopolitical realities. By a complete agreement for the full delimitation of their respective national EEZs Libya and Greece shall ensure regional stability and protect their national interests.
Second, the international community and especially the EU and the US need the complete withdrawal of all foreign elements and mercenaries from Libya as a necessary step for stability and credibility of the political process. Thousands of foreign mercenaries are still present, mainly in Western Libya, transferred by Turkey. The future of Libya lies in its independence from outside actors and its cooperation with EU member-states, such as Greece.

Cooperation between Libya and Greece can cover many fields, diplomatic, military, financial and cultural. On a diplomatic level, Libya and Greece can move decisively forward. The two countries should proceed with full cooperation with Greece providing constant diplomatic support to Libya as an EU and NATO member. On a military level Libya and Greece share close ties over the last decades. More than 280 Libyan officers have graduated from Greek military schools. Future cooperation can include joint aeronautical exercises and exchange programs for officers. On a financial level, Greece as an EU member with veto power can guarantee steady access to generous external EU financial aid for Libya, while the impressive Greek tanker fleet can contribute to export of Libyan oil towards the EU. Finally, on a cultural level both countries are inheritors of a great historical past and can cooperate in promoting their historical image and common ties.

DR. IOANNIS E. KOTOULAS is Lecturer in Geopolitics at the University of Athens, Greece