This study lays stress on the fact that the Mediterranean Sea is one of the essential factors uniting the countries bordering on its shores which are, in other respects, so different from a political, economic and cultural point of view. However, the definition of maritime frontiers is a prerequisite to joint action aimed at the protection, conservation and rational exploitation of the sea's natural resources.
The author notes that, while the countries bordering on the Mediterranean have in general extended their territorial waters to 12 nautical miles, they have not felt the need to lay claim to an exclusive economic zone in the Mediterranean. This does not mean that this concept has no pertinence in the region, if only by its impact on the very definition of continental shelf established by the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.
After referring briefly to the specific nature of the Greek-Turkish dispute in the Aegean Sea, the author goes on to analyse conventional practice and the decrees made by the International Court of Justice on the delimitation of the continental shelf.
It is estimated that the division of the continental shelf in the Mediterranean would entail mapping out 33 maritime frontiers. At present the agreements which have been concluded concern the delimitation of the continental shelf between Italy and four of its neighbours. Two of these agreements (with Spain and Greece) apply the principle of equidistance. The other two (with Tunisia and Yugoslavia) have opted for different criteria because of the presence of certain islands.
The author analyses the "Mediterranean jurisprudence" of the International Court of Justice in the Libya/Tunisia and Libya/Malta affairs from a legal standpoint. He notes that the implementation of the principles of the UN Convention does not seem to be the major concern of the Court, which has taken care especially to divide the disputed zones as equitably as possible. He considers it hazardous to submit this jurisprudence to strict juridical reasoning and that these decrees should rather be examined in a political context in order to find out whether they have contributed toward improving the climate of existing relationships between the countries being considered. He concludes by observing that, in line with this approach, the Court could be criticized for having so far refused to accede to any argumentation of an economic nature in issues concerning delimitation.