Greece, Cyprus Unhappy With EU’s Soft Approach with Turkey

BRUSSELS – After going along with the European Union setting aside talk of sanctions for Turkey’s plan to drill for energy around Greek islands and other provocations, Greece is going to object to some provisions.

Cyprus is unhappy as well as the EU, after imposing soft penalties against only two Turkish oil company executives for a gas and oil hunt in Cypriot waters, deferred any idea of more.

Greece said a draft prepared for meeting of EU leaders didn’t reflect a report by EU foreign chief JosepBorrell that used tender diplomatic language trying to appease all parties.

It was especially lenient on Turkey, with the backing of Germany, home to 2.774 million people of Turkish heritage and a major arms supplier to Turkey, including submarines that could be used against Greece.

Greece considered the Borrell report as acceptable after Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, who had been insistent that sanctions be imposed against Turkey, backed off them.

But the EU’s new draft is said to offer Turkey incentives and not use aggressive language, bloc leaders fearful of offending Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in worry he might send more refugees and migrants through Greece and its islands.

It refers to the strategic interest of the EU for a stable and safe environment in the Eastern Mediterranean and in the development of a cooperative and mutually beneficial relationship with Turkey, said Kathimerini.

It also essentially praised Turkey for pulling out an energy research vessel and warships from near the Greek island of Kastellorizo to give diplomacy a chance, with Greek and Turkish officials holding two rounds of informal talks.

The EU was also said to be satisfied that a meeting in Geneva, Switzerland late in April brokered by the United Nations to discuss Cyprus was enough to set aside any more sanctions for drilling off the island.

The EU said it would revisit the idea of sanctions if Turkey doesn’t cooperate but Erdogan has shown only disdain for that and said he will go ahead with drilling at any rate.

This is third time in less than a year that the EU said it wouldn’t confront Turkey and said it will talk about it at a European Council meeting in June, continuing what Greece earlier complained was a policy of delay and appeasement of Turkey and Erdogan, Turkey a key EU trade partner.

Instead of penalties, the EU is moving toward giving Erdogan another 3 billion euros promised under an essentially-suspended 2016 swap deal in which Turkey was supposed to contain refugees and migrants but let human traffickers keep sending them to the bloc, mostly through Greece.

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

That would reward instead of penalize Turkey but the EU said it could take that off the table if Turkey starts provocations again and must respect human rights, making no mention of Turkey jailing dozens of journalists and shutting down independent news outlets.

After scoring the win, Erdogan said he doesn’t want tension and said the EU must make Greece engage in dialogue with Turkey, which is already happening, although he wants other issues to be discussed, including his demand Greece take troops off islands near Turkey’s coast.

“Turkey does not want tension in the Aegean and the Eastern Mediterranean; on the contrary, it wants stability and cooperation so that dialogue [with Greece] can proceed in an efficient way,” Erdogan said during a video conference with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, said Kathimerini.

“Greece must be encouraged more. Relations between Ankara and Brussels must not be undermined by countries that fail to grasp their value,” he said in a shot at Greece, which he disregarded.

In late February, Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias said there should be a stricter EU policy toward Turkey, now having to swallow those words.

“If you ask me whether we are satisfied, I will tell you that we would want the EU to be tougher on Turkey,” he told a virtual forum on Greek foreign policy.

“However, the EU is a union of 27 countries. It, thankfully, operates on the basis of consensus. The national interest, occasionally, supersedes the European interest. But it is still a very powerful, perhaps our most powerful, instrument,” he said, the paper added.

Dendias said that commitment to international law has been the cornerstone of Greek foreign policy, adding that the country’s objective – with the help of like-minded international partners – is “to make Turkey realize that respect for international law is the only answer to problems.”

“Dialogue, of course, is like a release valve for tension; but it is not a remedy for problems,” the Greek minister said.


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