Greece and Cyprus met intense resistance to their attempts to formulate a solid response to Ankara over its repeated provocations in recent months at Thursday’s European Union summit in Brussels.
Until late Thursday night, the front formed by Berlin, Rome and Madrid insisted on the postponement of any serious decisions on the matter – basically until US President-elect Joe Biden is sworn in. All they would acquiesce to was an increase in the number of Turkish officials to face sanctions – in addition to the two individuals in February – for Turkish drilling activities in Cyprus’ exclusive economic zone (EEZ) and a somewhat vague hint that the scope of these sanctions could be expanded at a later phase. The position of Greece and Cyprus was also weakened by what appeared to be France’s unwillingness to insist on more substantial measures.
The second draft of the summit’s conclusion Thursday morning had only minor differences to the one on Wednesday, which Athens and Nicosia found unacceptable.
Greek government sources bemoaned that “unfortunately there are even ountries that do not want any sanctions for Turkey,” noting that the European Council was jeopardizing the credibility of the EU. Upon arriving at the summit, Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis insisted that agreements must be respected and the EU leaders must follow through on the decisions taken at the last leaders’ summit in October regarding the imposition of sanctions against Turkey for its activities in the Eastern Mediterranean. The initial draft’s reference to additional listings (for sanctions against individuals) was accompanied in the second draft by a reference to “Turkey’s unauthorized drilling activities in the Eastern Mediterranean.” The first draft had only referred to the number of the relevant decisions of the EU Council on the Cypriot sanctions in November 2019.
The reference to drillings only concerns the Cypriot EEZ, as the Oruc Reis only conducted seismic surveys in waters that Greece claims as part of its continental shelf.
In another minor amendment, EU High Representative Josep Borrell is now called upon to include in his progress report his assessment of the possibility of “extending” the scope of these sanctions, possibly to include activities of the Oruc Reis. The reference in the original draft to the extension of the scope was the phrase “if necessary.”
The discussion continued at the leaders’ dinner, which started after a delay of more than two hours, after 9.30 p.m.