Of Greek-Turkish exploratory talks, the “5+1”Cyprus talks, the March 25/26 Summit – and well-wishers

by Antonis D. Papagiannidis

All who follow the not-so-discreet pas-de-deux of the EU with Turkey have already realised that work on the promised roadmap “for enhancing relations”, aka “positive agenda”, is progressing at a fast pace. Far faster, in fact, than the preparations to set out some sort of list for potential EU sanctions (or “measures”) targeting persons or entities involved in offending sovereign rights of Cyprus through drilling for hydrocarbons over its EEZ. (Disrespect to the rights of Greece prove to be a less clear-cut matter). Expectations based in Athens on EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Josep Borrell to that effect proved as long-winded as Borrell’s official title. At the same time, respected central banker/politician Mario Draghi, sworn-in as Italy’s PM coined the new term of “virtuous dialogue” with Turkey.

As the fifth anniversary of the EU- Turkey migration pact (“Common Declaration”) gets nearer, Turkish recriminations that many European commitments remain unfulfilled tend to resonate in an increasing number of European capitals – not only the usual suspect: Berlin – but also throughout the Brussels. system To give just one example: Ankara’s affirmation that most of the criteria for visa liberalization – a matter of far higher importance than e.g. financing infrastructure for refugees in Eastern/Southeastern Anatolia – are close to be satisfied (66 out fo 72, or 68 out of 72 depending on who counts what) is no longer meeting with frosty rejection in Brussels.

The political chips bet by Athens worthies who lack in deeper conviction on the foreign-policy roulette table of the East Mediterranean and – increasingly in recent weeks – of the Aegean risk being swiped away. Well-wishers from Berlin and Brussels are already whispering to the ears of the Greek foreign-policy apparatus suggestions that the March 25/26 EU Summit agenda that had included Greek-Turkey (and Cypriots-Turkey) grievances might be depleted of most of its expectations, for fear that the “positive agenda” might crowd out serious debate over sanctions. The fact that Athens is wary to jeopardise exploratory talks with Turkey as well as  that Nicosia is to be involved in informal “5+1” talks over the Cyprus issue constitute obstacles that cannot be circumvented according to such very well-wishers. The probable end-result: delay of both the “5+1” informal talks over the Cyprus issue and any tangible E.U. pressure in the Greek-Turkish dispute till past the March 25/26 Summit.