Athens, Greece – On the eve of the crucial summit, EU leaders will face a difficult balancing act over EU-Turkey relations.
The EU Council meeting, high with the East Mediterranean controversy on the agenda, took place on Thursday and Friday, when the council’s president, Charles Mitchell, tested positive for the novel coronavirus.
In a letter to 27 leaders on Wednesday, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said: “I want to emphasize once again that we are ready for dialogue with Greece without any preconditions, as he called on Brussels to help maintain neutrality in bilateral relations New test “.
On the one hand, EU leaders are keen not to upset Turkey, as it prepares to resume dialogue with Greece on delimiting maritime jurisdiction after a four-and-a-half-year hiatus.
On September 13, Turkey called on the U.N. Under the Law of the Sea, Greece withdrew its research vessel Ucruk Rees from the water. The long-running stand of the summer saw almost two NATO members go to war. The withdrawal of Uric Rice fulfilled the Greek precondition for the resumption of negotiations.
EU leaders, on the other hand, face strong demands from EU member Cyprus for sanctions against Turkey, to which Turkey has shown no leniency.
A Turkish seismic survey ship and drillship rests on the shelf of the continents of Cyprus – the area where Cyprus uses its exclusive right to exploit mineral resources under the sea.
The weight of the rewards and punishments for Turkey is compounded by the fact that the European Union is currently trying to assert its rights in Belarus as well, by imposing sanctions for electoral fraud there. Cyprus threatens to veto the plans if it does not impose sanctions on Turkey.
“It will be extremely difficult for Cyprus to drop its veto threat without getting anything in return … We can make a final demonstration. The thriller at this summit will be on Cyprus,” said Costas Yfantis, a professor of international relations at the Panten University in Athens and a Turkish expert.
Surprisingly, Cyprus’ attitude has sparked outrage among Nordic politicians near the Belarusian border rather than Turkey.
“Cyprus continues to veto sanctions against repression and electoral fraud in Belarus. It would be a powerful argument in favor of abandoning the principle of consensus on such issues, “tweeted former Swedish Prime Minister Carl Bildt, who is now co-chair of the European Council on Foreign Relations.
Germany, which currently holds the EU presidency and helps brokers for a new Greece-Turkey debate, has told Cyprus that it will tighten Turkey’s stance and not expect the sanctions to be adversely effective.
Many Greeks and Greek-Cypriots consider this a satisfaction.
“I do not understand the logic. You now have military power on Syrian, Cypriot, Iraqi and Libyan soil, three of them illegally… and we have the illusion of the EU [Belarus president Alexander] Lukashenko does not hold fair elections, “said Angelos Sirigos, a professor of international law and a member of parliament.
The latest diplomatic provocation came from Turkey on July 21 when it announced plans to explore for oil and gas in the waters supplied to Greece under UN maritime law. For the rest of the summer the boats of both countries were fully deployed. In Cyprus, however, Sirigos believes EU leaders have failed for years to stand up for European sovereign maritime rights.
“What has been happening on the Greek continent for the last two months has been happening on the continents of Cyprus since 2014. If Cyprus had an army and was threatening war, this would have stopped immediately. Greece has an army and that’s why the EU is getting involved. “
Greece, generally an ethnically staunch supporter of Greek Cyprus, is officially taking a hand-off approach.
“The really important thing is that we have a list of sanctions because they seem to have acted as a deterrent to Turkey’s recent provocative actions,” Greek government spokesman Staleios Pettas said on September 23.
The leaked list of approvals approved by EU foreign ministers in late August ranged from targeting companies ranging from cutting the European Union’s distribution in Turkey and cutting off the European Bank’s credit to Turkish businesses.
Greek experts, however, are clear that they view the EU’s stance as hypocritical.
“Cyprus is making it clear: there can be no sanctions against Belarus… one that does not directly affect the EU member – they are sanctions in principle – and a failure to make them a real failure against a third country. Member State, ”said Constantinos Phyllis, Executive Director of the Institute of International Relations in Athens.
Phyllis believes that Turkey will disrupt negotiations with Greece until it feels pressure from the EU.
“Greece does not want sanctions to punish the people of Turkey or the Turkish economy. He wants them so that Turkey aligns itself with a responsible policy that is not unstable or hostile to EU members. I don’t think there is a difference of opinion about that. There is varying intensity depending on the depth and duration of the steps, ”he said.
The Greece-Turkey trend has led to deep divisions in the European Union towards Turkey. France and Austria have taken the most intense anti-Turkish positions, along with Greece and Cyprus, but widespread EU solidarity has also been expressed.
On September 10, seven members of the Mediterranean EU (Portugal, Spain, France, Malta, Italy, Greece, Cyprus) condemned Turkey’s action when they met at Corsica for the annual summit. Med7’s statement expressed full support and solidarity with Cyprus and Greece “in the face of repeated violations of their sovereignty and sovereign rights, as well as contradictory actions by Turkey”. The fact that the statement was signed by Turkey and Spain, Turkey’s two largest trading partners, has diplomatic significance.
In his annual State of the Union address a week later, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen made it clear: “Yes, Turkey is in trouble. And yes, it hosts millions of refugees, for which we support them with significant funding. But none of this is justified in its attempts to intimidate its neighbors. Our member countries, Cyprus and Greece can always rely on the full unity of Europe to protect their legitimate sovereign rights.
Germany has tried to be easy as a negotiator, and Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu has praised it as a “truly objective country.”
But at this summit, Greece and Cyprus will not pay attention to the objections, but hinted at EU unification von der Leyen.