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Greece’s Great Sting and that Sea Becoming a Lake…

Greece appears to have been able to bring off one of the most spectacular “stings” in human history - worth not much less than €300 billion. If a United Europe with its capital in Brussels truly exists, it will react. If instead the reaction consists primarily of attempts to assign blame, the conclusion to be drawn must be another. Meanwhile in the Caspian Sea... / Leggi in Italiano

 

“Thick” Greeks — As we write a first province of the European Union appears – for the moment at least – to be in open rebellion. That’s the only possible interpretation if the EU is in fact the “supernational” umbrella state it increasingly claims to be. On the other hand though, it may turn out to be nothing more than a customs union with an excessively elaborate superstructure.

Over time it will become clear, watching the reaction to the situation that has come about in Greece, which of these two possible interpretations is most fitting. One way of the other though, this is a “defining moment,” one of those shit-hitting-the-fan occasions where we’ll finally see what the European Union is made of.

If a United Europe with its capital in Brussels truly exists, it will react – ideally constructively, but perhaps only to show that it can manage to flex a muscle or two. True “states” are by nature and necessity vindictive. If instead the reaction consists primarily of attempts to assign blame, perhaps by insisting on the presumed amateurish conduct by the Greeks of their side of the negotiations – ignoring the EU’s own lack of success – the conclusion to be drawn must be another.

Certainly, for a small country, Greece appears to have been able to bring off one of the most spectacular “stings” in human history – worth not much less than €300 billion. It may eventually occur to someone that perhaps those “thick” Greeks are not so thick after all.

 

If a sea is a lake — In most of the world’s languages the Caspian Sea is just that, a “sea”: but not in the language of diplomacy, where the question of precisely what kind of body of water it is not only is open, but very important.  If it is instead a “lake,” not an unreasonable suggestion, then international law would share out in a very different way the resources – mostly oil and gas – that lie beneath its surface.

The Caspian is located at the crossroads between Europe and Asia. Five bordering countries of a certain importance: Russia, Iran, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan and Azerbaijan; are all wrangling over just how much of it belongs to each.

In extreme synthesis, Russia claims control over most of it on the basis of old treaties which describe the Caspian as “internal waters”, at the time of their signing to be shared – unequally – between the USSR (of which the “stans” were then part) and Iran. Tehran today believes the Caspian should be divided into five equal parts (the strict “lake” reading), while the other three countries think that it should be shared out on the basis of the lengths of the respective coastlines of the nations concerned.

If it is instead a sea, the Caspian would instead come under the provisions of the UN “Law of the Sea” treaty (UNICLOS) which would largely pre-determine the outcome of the extremely lengthy and complex negotiations underway to decide exactly who gets what of its underwater resources – a prospect that does not cause joy to the actors.

That “Sea” has been thought a “sea” all through history, largely because of its size. It is larger than other bodies of water – the North Sea, the Baltic Sea – whose definition is not in doubt. At the same time, is does in fact have all the characteristics of a lake. It’s completely surrounded by dry land, without any natural access to other seas and without rivers flowing out of it. Its waters are salty in the south, but in the north, where it receives the Volga River, they tend towards sweetness. Take your pick, in other words.

The primary complication arises not so much with the flavor of its waters, but rather what is under them: perhaps 79 billion barrels of crude oil and seven trillion cubic meters of natural gas. Nor must it be forgotten that this is where caviar comes from – though increasingly less of it. As things stand, even the management of caviar production and of the sturgeon fish from which it comes is, as the diplomats say, “completely screwed up.”

 

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