The United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea envisages the possibility for coastal States to extend their continental shelf beyond 200 nautical miles. This creates an additional marine space where States can explore and exploit extremely attractive mineral and energy resources.
The geo-strategic position of the Canary Islands provides an excellent example of state practice. The potential extension of the continental shelf leads to overlaps with Portugal and with Western Sahara and has reactivated two outstanding issues. On the one hand, the question of the Savage Islands, which is out of the sphere of the extended continental shelf. On the other hand, the status of the Western Sahara as a non-autonomous territory, which prevents the delimitation of the marine spaces between this territory and the Canary Islands.
It is the State’s responsibility not to miss the opportunities offered by a treaty such as this one which exhaustively codifies the law of the sea. A good use of the tools that the Convention makes available to coastal States is a guarantee of power and access to resources under legitimate conditions.
Ángeles Jiménez García-Carriazo.
REDI Vol. 70 2 2018
Spanish practice of international law
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