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EU timidly sanctions Turkey for its actions in the Eastern Mediterranean

EU member states agreed on minimum sanctions against Turkey (photo: European Council)
EU member states agreed on minimum sanctions against Turkey (photo: European Council)
TURKEY / EU. His name is Oruç Reis. This gas exploration ship, with the red and white flag of its country painted on its side, has been stigmatising differences between the European Union and Turkey since July 2020. The ship, well escorted, operates in maritime areas claimed by Greece and the Republic of Cyprus. And this has awakened the EU which, in July 2019 and for the same reasons, had suspended the meetings of the Association Council, responsible for preparing Turkey's entry into the EU.

Despite threats of new sanctions, the first concrete ones of which date from September 2020 with a European Parliament resolution, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan put the ship back into the sea in October 2020. And now they are falling. Even if they remain very timid, rejecting for example the suggestion of economic sanctions against certain sectors of activity and a European arms embargo on Turkey proposed by Athens.

On the night of Friday 11 December 2020, EU leaders meeting at a summit in Brussels decided to punish Turkey's so-called "illegal and aggressive" actions against Athens and Nicosia. The European Council specifies that the measures adopted are individual sanctions. The black list of those concerned will be published in the coming weeks and submitted to the Member States for approval. It will in fact join the one already established in November 2019 to sanction the drilling activities of Turkey's Yavuz in the waters of the Republic of Cyprus. It includes two officials of the Turkish Petroleum Corporation (TPAO) who are banned from obtaining visas to travel to the European Union and whose European assets have been frozen.

New item in March 2021

The presence of the Oruç Reis in waters claimed by Greece and Cyprus set fire to the powder keg (photo: DR)
The presence of the Oruç Reis in waters claimed by Greece and Cyprus set fire to the powder keg (photo: DR)
Additional measures may be added if Turkey persists. It will be up to Josep Borrell to "report back by March 2021 at the latest on the evolution of the situation" to the 27 members of the EU. The head of European diplomacy could then recommend adding names or companies to the list.

At the end of September 2020, at the initiative of Berlin, Athens and Ankara agreed in principle on the principle of a regional conference on the conflict in the Eastern Mediterranean. But Greece demanded as a precondition before setting a date to stop prospecting in its waters. A month later, the three Greek, Cypriot and Egyptian presidents met in Nicosia to denounce Turkey's "provocations" in several theatres of conflict in the Mediterranean and accused Turkey of "undermining regional security".

On 9 December 2020 in Ankara, Recep Tayyip Erdogan did not seem worried: "Any decision on EU sanctions is not a big concern for Turkey (...) The EU has always applied sanctions against Turkey anyway. It has never been honest with us, has never kept its promises."

Eric Apim

Friday, December 11th 2020

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