Brief History of the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) Regime and the Violation of the Cyprus EEZ
The historical roots of the EEZ lie in the trend of coastal States after 1945 to assert rights and jurisdiction over an increasing area of seabed driven by a belief that an abundance of natural resources lay beneath.
The coastal States, particularly the Latin American States, wanted to make the zone subject to the sovereignty of coastal States, but provided that other States had the right to exercise rights and freedoms within the zone. Under this argument, the EEZ would have a residual territorial sea character such that any activity is not falling within the clearly defined rights of the non-coastal States and it would come under the jurisdiction of the coastal State.
The maritime powers on the other hand, wanted the zone to be part of the high seas, but provided that coastal States had the sovereign right to explore and exploit the natural resources in the zone. Any activity not falling within the clearly defined rights of the coastal State would be governed by the principles governing the high seas, that is the freedom of use for all States, with regulation by the flag States. The debate was important because of its implications for any matters not expressly provided for. The compromise was to reject both options and create a sui generis legal regime.
The key provision in UNCLOS on the EEZ is Article 55. It makes it clear that the EEZ is a regime that is neither under the sovereignty of the coastal State nor part of the high seas, but a special, sui generis regime. It provides as follows:
Article 55 states the Specific Legal Regime of the Exclusive Economic Zone: According to this article ‘The exclusive economic zone is an area beyond and adjacent to the territorial sea, subject to the specific legal regime established in this Part, under which the rights and jurisdiction of the coastal State and the rights and freedoms of other States are governed by the relevant provisions of this Convention’.
The coastal State has rights and jurisdiction as set out in Part V of UNCLOS, and supplemented by other provisions in UNCLOS. Article 56 is the key provision. It provides that the coastal State has “sovereign rights” to explore and exploit the natural resources in the EEZ as well as other “activities for the economic exploitation and exploration of the zone, such as the production of energy from water, currents and winds”.
According to the above, it is obvious that the Turkish activities violate the Cypriot EEZ. More specifically, Turkey is following its provocative tactics with violations within the Republic of Cyprus’ EEZ by carrying out aeronautic drills west of Paphos and violating the Cypriot EEZ with (seismic survey vessel) Barbaros Vessel is against all the principles of the law of the sea and maritime safety.
The international community recognises the sovereign rights of Cyprus in its EEZ, as evidenced by various official statements and the fact that major oil companies – TOTAL of France, ENI of Italy, Exxon Mobil of the United States, among others such as Noble Energy, KoGas, Qatar Petroleum – have obtained licences for hydrocarbon exploration in these plots.
The Republic of Cyprus has no doubts about its legal rights but, if Turkey has claims to the same, the way to advance these claims is not through threats and acts of gunboat diplomacy, but through negotiations, failing which, through third party settlement, procedures are available through the International Court of Justice (ICJ) or arbitration (ITLOS, the Law of the Sea Tribunal in Hamburg, which is not available for Turkey, since Turkey is a non-party to UNCLOS).
For more information and guidance please email Michalaki, Pitsillidou & Co LLC – iMPK Global Business Law Firm – Cyprus Lawyers, at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit our website at www.impklawyers.com Tel. +357 25660092 – Fax +357 25 660097.