BRUSSELS — The European Union for a third time won’t consider sanctions for Turkey’s plans to drill for energy off Greek islands and Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis has withdrawn his demand for penalties.
The bloc’s leaders are meeting March 23-25 but it’s foreign chief, Josep Borrell, satisfied Mitsotakis with a report that offers Turkey incentives to stop provocations with a warning that sanctions could be considered again some time in the future otherwise, said Kathimerini.
That comes after Greek and Turkish officials sat down January 25 in Constantinople for a four-hour non-binding chit chat in which nothing of substance happened, and did the same in Athens this month.
While nothing was revealed about what they specifically discussed the talks were focused on competing claims to the Aegean and East Mediterranean, but the EU already backed off any idea of sanctions, saying Turkey was too important a trade partner.
Germany, which was the first to stand in the way of sanctions, has 2.774 million people of Turkish heritage and is a major arms dealer to Turkey and other EU countries who profit from business there also wouldn’t support Greece.
EU leaders are meeting through a teleconference because of the COVID-19 pandemic still raging through the bloc because its clumsy mechanism of requiring consensus from all 27 member states has slowed vaccinations.
Borrell, who had been reluctant to provoke Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the EU fearful he would unleash more refugees and migrants through Greek islands, noted Turkey’s violations of Greek airspace and waters.
But nothing will be done about it and Erdogan appeared to have pushed the EU, and now Greece, into a corner as he said whatever the outcome of talks he would ignore any sanctions and drill in and around Greek waters.
The Borrell Report also cited Turkey using refugees and migrants as a bargaining chip and weapon against the EU and Greece and a Turkey-Libya maritime deal claiming the seas between them but said there would be no penalties for either.
In essence, the EU has continued what Mitsotakis earlier said was a policy of appeasement with Erdogan that has failed to slow his belligerent talk, the Greek Premier also now backing away from a confrontation.
It wasn’t said what the incentives for Turkey would be but Erdogan has complained the EU is holding back 3 billion euros ($3.57 billion) from a 6-billion euro agreement requiring Turkey to contain some 4.4 billion euros who went there fleeing war and strife in their homelands.
Turkey has regularly violated that 2016 agreement that’s essentially been suspended anyway and the deal calls for visa-free travel for Turks in the bloc and a faster-track entry for Turkey to join the EU at the same time Erdogan has jailed dozens of journalists and violated a number of alleged EU principles.
Turkey also withdrew from the Istanbul Convention, an international treaty named for the Turkish city where it was signed that calls for protections against domestic violence and the EU said it can’t do anything about it.
The report said the EU expects Turkey to be cooperative and “will be willing to resolve any differences through dialogue and according to international law principles,” which Turkey doesn’t recognize.
The report demands the immediate resumption of returns concerning 1,500 migrants currently staying on Greek islands whose asylum demands have been rejected, including at the appeals level, the paper also said.
The report also said that Turkey could sometime in the future if things fall apart with Greece and the EU face sanctions including bank activities and also essentially gave Turkey carte blanche to continue drilling for oil and gas in Cypriot waters despite soft EU sanctions for that activity.
In diplomatic language designed to mean nothing, it said the EU acknowledges “the volatile and fragile nature of EU-Turkey relations and note that, despite positive steps taken, it will take time to assess whether de-escalation is lasting and credible. Thus, any policy instruments, positive and deterrent, are conditional, can be reversed and must be proportional.