ATHENS – Turkey isn’t in the European Union – it’s been fruitlessly trying to join since 2005 – but Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias asked the bloc’s foreign chief Josep Borrell to intervene and Turkish bar fish imports to the bloc.
That came a week after a Greek coast guard patrol vessel tried to identify three Turkish fishing vessels fishing in the sea area southeast of Farmakonissi island – within Greek territorial waters – but was harassed by a Turkish vessel.
Greek officials said the incidents are common and designed by Turkey to further challenge sovereignty of the seas that has included Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan saying that it would be a cause for war if Greece doubles its maritime boundaries to 12 miles.
“This repeated Turkish practice creates a dangerous security environment and increases the possibility of an ‘accident’, which could be exploited by Ankara to escalate the tension between Greece and Turkey,” Greece’s Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias of his hopes.
Greek media reported that Dendias asked Borrell to activate the regulation related to “Illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing,” in which “if a third country does not comply, it is labeled as ‘non-cooperating’ and fisheries products can be banned from the EU market.”
Such a reaction “will send a resounding message to Ankara and demonstrate in practice the solidarity of the EU towards a member state, which on an almost daily basis faces the questioning of its sovereignty and threats of war,” Dendias noted, said EURACTIV.
Erdogan though has shown he doesn’t care one whit what the EU thinks as the bloc’s leaders have been reluctant to get tough on him, fearful he will unleash more refugees and migrants, most to Greece and its islands.
The Greek patrol boat’s crew fired warning shots at a Turkish Coast Guard vessel in the incident, raising fear of a hot accidental conflict breaking out with tensions running high between the countries at times.
A Greek Coast Guard statement said that “the crew fired warning shots in a secure sector and the Turkish coast guard vessel withdrew” toward the Turkish coast and that the shots were fired in the air.
The Greek Coast Guard said its vessel had been on a mission to identify three Turkish fishing boats off Farmakonissi, near Turkey’s coast and that the Greek crew opened fire after “being harassed” by the Turkish vessel, which the statement said “carried out dangerous maneuvers with the intention of ramming” the Greek boat.
Analysts and political pundits have said they think Erdogan – who, like Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis is facing a tough re-election campaign this year – has been trying to ramp up nationalism with war talk.
(Material from the Associated Press was used in this report)