Albania-Greece teritorial agreement annuled

Albania’s constitutional court annulled on Tuesday a territorial agreement signed with Greece which delineates the continental shelf between the two countries in the Ionian Sea, arguing that it had serious legal flaws.

“In the agreement there are procedural and substantive infractions of the [Albanian] constitution and of the the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea,” said the court in a statement on Wednesday.

The decision of the court was unanimous, with all nine judges voting to strike down the agreement.

The legality of the agreement was questioned by the opposition Socialist Party which claimed that the government was handing Albanian territory to its neighbour for unclear political benefits.

The court heard arguments for and against the agreement from opposition lawyers and representatives of some of the highest institutions in the country, including the President’s Office, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of Defense, the Navy and others.

The agreement, signed by Albanian Prime Minister Sali Berisha and his Greek counterpart Costas Karamanlis in late April 2009 in Tirana, created a stir of controversy in the local media. The Albanian government was accused of giving 225 square kilometers of its territorial waters to its southern neighbour.

The media accused Berisha and the Ministry of Defense of not delineating the division of the continental shelf according to the equidistance principle of the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, on which the agreement was based, a charge which the Ministry of Defense has flatly denied.

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