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Politics

Cyprus Says EU Too Easy on Turkey, But Won’t Block Report

BRUSSELS — After initially not raising an objection, Cyprus’ government said a draft report prepared for the European Union on how to deal with Turkish provocations, including drilling for energy off the island, was “totally unacceptable.”

In reports, Kathimerini and the Reuters news agency said while the report said the EU should keep economic sanctions on the table if Turkey doesn’t cooperate, that Cyprus was unhappy with the overall tender tone.

Reluctant to confront Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in fear he will unleash on the bloc, mostly through Greece and its islands, more refugees and migrants who went to Turkey fleeing war, strife and economic hardships in their homeland, the EU instead offered rewards and incentives, mixed with threats.

Turkey is a critical trading partner to the EU and Germany, home to 2.774 million people of Turkish heritage and an arms supplier to Turkey, was said to have blocked any possibility of sanctions.

“Strengthening our already substantial economic ties is another win-win situation for both sides … At the heart of this would be the modernization and expansion of the scope of the current EU-Turkey Customs Union,” said the report by EU foreign affairs chief Josep Borrell and the European Commission.

The report also said Turkey deserved more financial support for hosting millions of Syrian refugees, as well as visa-free travel to the EU, more high-profile diplomatic contacts and an expanded customs union.

That would essentially reward Turkey for defying the EU and its provocations against Greece and Cyprus but neither reportedly would try to veto the report or its findings, leaving their objections meaningless.

The EU already provided 3 billion euros ($3.54 billion) for Turkey to contain 4.4 million refugees and migrants but it wasn’t said if another 3 billion euros pledged would be disbursed nor if it would have to be accounted for.

The EU urged Turkey, which has jailed dozens of journalists, to respect human rights but didn’t push for Turkey to pull out completely from drilling in Cypriot waters as President Nicos Anastasiades wanted.

The EU said Turkey, under the terms of an essentially-suspended 2016 swap deal, must take back 1,500 refugees and migrants on Greek islands, sent there by human traffickers that Turkey let operate.

“The situation of refugees in Turkey continues to deteriorate, aggravated by the COVID-19 pandemic and the economic downturn. Therefore, continued EU support will be required over the next years,” said the report, indicating Erdogan would get much of what he demanded, giving up next to nothing in return.

In December, 2020, EU leaders proposed asset freezes and travel bans over Turkey’s “unauthorized drilling activities” for natural gas in disputed waters in the Eastern Mediterranean but penalized only two executives from Turkey’s state oil company.

The report said a sliding scale of sanctions, to be used only as leverage, could include punitive measures on individuals, moving up towards important sectors such as energy and tourism, the reports added.

Targeting tourism, which accounts for up to 12 percent of the Turkish economy, appeared to be a new threat from the EU which has denounced Erdogan’s authoritarian rule in words but done nothing to stop it, apart from freezing a bid to join the bloc, which has been going on since 2005.

“Should Turkey not move forward constructively in developing a genuine partnership with the EU, it should be made clear that this would bear political and economic consequences,” it said, repeating a long line of similar threats that were never carried out, Erdogan saying he would proceed with drilling in any case.

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