In the course of 2016, the controversy of Italy with India, widely known as the Enrica Lexie case, was an important subject of discussion and debate in the Parliament. The events triggering the dispute date back to 15 February 2012, when two Indian fishermen were killed off the western coast of India, after a shooting incident involving Italian marines on-board the Italian-flagged oil tanker Enrica Lexie.
The subsequent arrest by Indian authorities of two Italian marines, Massimiliano Latorre and Salvatore Girone, sparked a controversy between the two countries; after unsuccessful attempts to settle the case through diplomatic means, on 26 June 2015 Italy decided to submit the dispute to international arbitration pursuant to Annex VII of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. Additionally, Italy sought provisional measures before the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea, which ordered the suspension of all court proceedings against the two Italian marines, Massimiliano Latorre and Salvatore Girone, pending a decision on the issue of jurisdiction by the Arbitral Tribunal (The “Enrica Lexie” Incident (Italy v. India), Provisional Measures, ITLOS, Order of 24 August 2015). On 13 January 2016, the Indian Supreme Court was convened to discuss the situation of one of the two marines, Massimiliano Latorre, who had been allowed to repatriate to Italy for medical reasons.
The initiatives adopted by Italy in the case, including the position expressed before the Indian Supreme Court, were illustrated by members of the Government in particular in the two occasions detailed below:
On 13 January 2016 the French authorities arrested the Italian fishing vessel Mina with the accusation of violating French territorial waters. The Mina was arrested during fishery of the red shrimp off the Ligurian coast, between Ventimiglia and the Mentone bay, before the Balzi Rossi reef, and was released upon payment of an 8300-euro deposit. Subsequently, the French authorities expressed regret for the arrest, conceding that it ensued from a wrongful determination of the boundary and jurisdiction over the area. The case spotlighted the on-going discussion between Italy and France over the determination of their maritime boundaries and corresponding fishing rights in an area off Liguria and North of Sardinia, pending the ratification of the so-called Caen Agreement. To date, Italy’s and France’s jurisdiction and fishing rights in the respective areas have been regulated de facto by the 1986 Bocche di Bonifacio Agreement and the 1892 Convention on the fishing zone in the Mentone Bay. More specifically, the 1892 Mentone Bay Convention has never entered into force and was negotiated as a modus vivendi providing for a cooperative ground between the countries, whilst leaving their positions legally unprejudiced. As to the Bocche di Bonifacio Agreement, it only determines French and Italian territorial waters in the Strait of Bonifacio. Though regulating the fisheries traditions and practices of French and Italian fishing vessels in a common zone West of the Strait, the Agreement fails to comprehensively establish the Parties’ maritime boundaries and fishing rights. The Caen Agreement, when in force, would thus constitute the first bilateral instrument to effectively determine the maritime boundaries between the two countries and serve as a basis to settle possible disputes.
SENATE OF THE REPUBLIC, 3rd PERMANENT COMMISSION (FOREIGN AFFAIRS – EMIGRATION), XVII LEGISLATURE, 67th MEETING, 17 FEBRUARY 2015.
On 18 January 2015, two Italian trawlers (the Jonathan of Siracusa and the Albachiara of Cagliari) were arrested by the Egyptian coast guard about 36 nautical miles far from the coast of Egypt. The timely intervention of the Italian Government brought to the release of both the two vessels and their crews (except the catch) before a full day had passed since the incident. One month later, Mr Lapo Pistelli, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, intervened in the Senate and, commenting upon these facts, made a statement that might be read as implicitly accepting the third-party effects of a bilateral treaty aimed at delimiting two Exclusive Economic Zones in a highly contested area. In the words of the Deputy Minister: