The Treaty that 2015 Forgot

The boundary agreement between France and Italy was as underreported as it is comprehensive.

  shores of the Strait of Bonifacio.   CREDIT: CC0 PUBLIC DOMAIN, https://pixabay.com/en/bonifacio-strait-of-bonifacio-375828/.

shores of the Strait of Bonifacio. CREDIT: CC0 PUBLIC DOMAIN, https://pixabay.com/en/bonifacio-strait-of-bonifacio-375828/.

The Agreement reached by the French and Italian governments on 21 March 2015 on the delimitation of their territorial seas and zones under national jurisdiction has seemingly received little attention in the news.

This is all the more surprising since it is a comprehensive delimitation of their maritime boundary in the Mediterranean. Previously, the only delimitation France and Italy had effected in the area was a 1986 treaty regarding the Strait of Bonifacio. That treaty, which provided inter alia for the maintenance and regulation of traditional fishing rights in certain areas, will be abrogated as of the date of entry into force of the 2015 Agreement.

The preamble of the Agreement refers generally to the "rules and principles of international law applicable to maritime delimitations", as set out in the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, and especially the principles of "equidistance in delimitation of […] territorial seas" and "equity in the delimitation of […] maritime spaces under jurisdiction". The map attached to the Agreement, as well as the unofficial map reproduced below, bear witness of the complexity of the actual delimitation exercise that the two negotiating teams had undertaken; the preamble states that the parties held four negotiation rounds between 2006 and 2012.

  an unofficial illustration of The maritime boundary between france and italy following the parties' 2015 agreement, as rendered by france's naval hydrographic and oceanographic service (SHOM).   CREDIT: Http://www.shom.fr/le-shom/actualites/les-communiques/actualite-detaillee/article/france-de-nouvelles-frontieres-maritimes/.

an unofficial illustration of The maritime boundary between france and italy following the parties' 2015 agreement, as rendered by france's naval hydrographic and oceanographic service (SHOM). CREDIT: Http://www.shom.fr/le-shom/actualites/les-communiques/actualite-detaillee/article/france-de-nouvelles-frontieres-maritimes/.

The parties had indeed to cope with a succession of areas involving adjacent or opposite coasts (considering the presence of Corsica and Sardinia), not to mention the influence of a number of islands under Italian sovereignty, and tripoint issues in the area where the maritime zones of Spain, Italy and France converge (and potentially overlap). 


This is a very significant development for the two countries, even if work remains to be done for France in the Mediterranean, where the boundary between France and Spain is so far unsettled. That boundary had been the subject of informal talks on delimitation methodology as of 2012, when Spain submitted a Note Verbale opposing France's declaration of an exclusive economic zone in the Mediterranean.
 

 

Further reading:

  1. On tripoint issues, the point of departure is an excellent study by Coalter G. Lathrop, 'Tripoint Issues in Maritime Boundary Delimitation', International Maritime Boundaries (2005), pp. 3305-3375.
  2. For an examination of delimitation issues between France and Spain, see Nathalie Ros, ‘Au-delà de la borne 602 : la frontière maritime entre l'Espagne et la France en mer Méditerranée’, Journal du droit international [Clunet] 4, doctr. 13 (2014).