Words, words, words

by Antonis D. Papagiannidis

The EU-27 Summit of last week, largely devoted to the avoidance of a no-deal Brexit, was persuaded by Greece (and Cyprus) to take note of the increased disruption caused by Turkey in the Eastern Mediterranean. Where, notwithstanding the calls of the earlier, October 1/2 Summit for Turkey to join in “confidence-building steps with Greece” and “abstain from unilateral actions which run counter to the EU interests and violate sovereign rights of EU Member States”. The same matter had to be discussed anew due to a new series of Turkey’s provocative actions, namely renewed seismic searches over the continental shelf of Greece (the seismic exploratory activities carried by Oruc Reis were later on joined by drillship Kanuni) along those continuing in the EEZ of Cyprus, but also the opening of the Famagusta/Varosha enclosed city contrary to U.N. Security Council Resolutions.

Greece and Cyprus were successful in adding to the October 15/16 Summit agenda these issues; they also pushed through paras. 22 and 23 of the Summit Conclusions reaffirming those of the October 1/2 Summit and “deploring renewed unilateral and provocative actions by Turkey, including recent exploratory activities”. The EU Summit also “urged respect for UN Security Council Resolutions” and added language asking Turkey to “reverse these actions and work for the easing of tensions”. Greek PM Mitsotakis tried to introduce the dimension of an arms embargo to Turkey on part of EU Member States, along with more concrete language over sanctions – unsuccessfully.

The EU stands by its earlier resolution, to address the Turkish issue in a global way in its December Summit, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, currently chairing the European Council, added her own voice to deploring “recent unilateral measures on part of Turkey , which increase tensions instead reducing them” – but promptly added that “we [the EU] have to work on the positive aspects of our agenda […] so as to enhance EU-Turkey relations in a way benefiting both sides”.

How such positions translate in the ears of Ankara became promptly clear when speaking aboard drillship Fatih last Saturday President Erdogan vowed to persist in hydrocarbon exploration in the Black Sea and the Eastern Mediterranean warning Europe of dire consequences if it tried to oppose such ventures. Also, Turkish Transport Minister Adil Karaismailoglu publicised a fresh map of his country’s search-and-rescue areas, mirroring those of hydrocarbons exploration, that is, significantly increased in the EastMed.

Had the Bard of Avon known if this EU-Turkey situation, he might have contributed anew his “Words, words, words” of hamlet, Act 2 Scene 2.