The Premier's Gambit: Mitsotakis Readies for EU-Turkey Showdown

Αssociated Press

FILE- Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis speaks on camera as he arrives for an EU summit at the European Council building in Brussels, Thursday, Oct. 1, 2020. (AP Photo/Francisco Seco, Pool)

ATHENS – After sacrificing calls for sanctions over Turkish provocations in the Aegean and East Mediterranean, Greek Prime Minister is ready to pick them up again at a Dec. 10-11 meeting of European Union leaders if Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan doesn't back off plans to drill for energy around Greek islands.

The New Democracy leader and Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias – who warned that Turkey is playing for time and trying to avoid sanctions by withdrawing an energy research vessel and warships off the island of Kastellorizo, were said to be strengthening an alliance to deal with the combative Erdogan.

Mitsotakis spoke with French President Emmanuel Macron, while earlier he participated in a teleconference with European Council President Charles Michel, as well as the prime ministers of Poland, Slovenia and Slovakia – Mateusz Morawiecki, Janez Jansa and Igor Matovic, said Kathimerini.

That came after the newspaper had said the basic scenario is the preparation of a list of sanctions against Turkey if Erdogan doesn't relent, although he would be exempted in any case, threatening to flood the EU – through Greece and its islands – with more refugees and migrants if pushed too far.

Turkey is holding some 4.4 million of them who went there fleeing war and strife in their homelands, especially Syria and Afghanistan, as well as economic hardships in areas such as sub-Saharan Africa.

Turkey, under an essentially-suspended 2016 swap deal with the EU, is supposed to contain them in return for financial aid, visa-free travel for its citizens in the bloc and faster-track entry into the EU, further stalled by the COVID-19 pandemic.

But Mitsotakis' move could be blocked by other countries not eager to stand in Erdogan's way, especially Germany – home to 2.774 million people of Turkish heritage and with Germany armaments companies supply submarines and weapons to Turkey that could be used against Greece and NATO. 

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo ripped Turkey, which bought a Russian-made S-400 missile system, for undermining NATO, diplomatic sources not named also told the paper.