The recent slide in Greek-Turkish relations due to the Turkish-Libyan MOU over the delimitation of their respective EEZ in the region South-West of Turkey and North-East of Libya (encroaching directly on the non-declared Greek EEZ South-East of the Dodecanese islands and East-South of Crete) has brought to the surface constant Greek appeals for international support to face the resulting situation.
In the October E.U. Summit, the Heads of State and Government of the EU “27” provided interesting such support, that the Greek Government considered as quite a diplomatic success. But texts are texts, to be read and discussed. So, let’s go at point 19 of the European Summit Conclusions, one of the 7 points under “Other Items” (the main topic of the Conclusions was Climate Change – dealt with at points 1 to 11, the balance dedicated to the Multiannual Financial Framework, meaning the EU Budget). Here is the relevant text: “19 […] The Turkey-Libya Memorandum of Understanding on the delimitation of maritime jurisdictions in the Mediterranean Sea infringes upon the sovereign rights of third States, does not comply with the Law of the Sea and cannot produce any legal consequences for third States. The European Council unequivocally reaffirms its solidarity with Greece and Cyprus regarding these actions by Turkey”.
Strong language, indeed. But … language. Legal/diplomatic language can lead to sanctions. Or at least at “measures” purporting to be sanctions. Such was the case for Turkey’s earlier drilling activities in the Cyprus EEZ. Reference to which was made also at the same point 19 of the E.C. Conclusions. To wit: “19. The European Council recalls its previous conclusions on Turkey of 22 March and 20 June. It reconfirms its conclusions of 17-18 October concerning Turkey’s illegal drilling activities in Cyprus’ Exclusive Economic Zone”. Sanctions or measures (“restrictive measures targeting natural and legal persons responsible for or engaged in illegal drilling activity”) or whatever were decided – but implementation has been quite light-handed for the time being.
Conclusions is one front. Sanctions can be another. Positions taken on, or actions engaged in the field is quite a different matter. For the time being, naval chips – Italian and French- may be present at Cyprus EEZ where ENI and Total have interests at Block 2,3 ,8 and 9 (ENI) Block 11 (Total) and Block 6,7 (jointly); still ENI’s CEO Claudio Descalzi was recently on-record stating “if someone turns up with warships, I won’t drill wells”. Later information about the Italian moves has caused additional concern: the frigate Martinengo is reported to participate in joint excercises with the Turkish navy: awkward.
All this in Cyprus. What of the area South-East/East of Crete?
Too early to tell what will happen if Turkish activities are initiated in the field. Here, too, one would be well advised to distinguish seismic operations from underwater drilling; both concern EEZ aspects, the latter may be felt more as an aggression if viewed from a continental shelf angle. Early next year, or later on?