Another Turning Point in the EU and Turkey Relations?

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Another Turning Point in the EU and Turkey Relations?

On 10-11 December, the leaders of the EU countries come together in Brussels last time in
this chaotical year. In addition to the fight against COVID 19 pandemic and EU-UK relations,
the tension between Turkey and two EU member states, Greece and Cyprus, in the Eastern
The Mediterranean will be one of the main discussion topics.
In the previous Council meeting of the EU in October, the EU leaders declared their full
solidarity with Greece and Cyprus, while the sanction calls against Turkey did not find
unanimous support within the Council. At the same time, the EU also tried to keep the
dialogue with Turkey by launching a positive political EU-Turkey agenda, which includes an
international conference for the Eastern Mediterranean, updating the Customs Union
an agreement, the revival of visa liberalization negotiations, and the renewal of the migration
Nevertheless, European sanctions against Turkey seem right now more likely than ever.
Above all, Greece and Cyprus insist on though EU sanctions as Turkey’s natural gas
explorations still continues in the disputed Eastern Mediterranean waters. Foreign Minister
of Greece, Nikos Dendias, described Turkey’s actions in the region as "revisionist" and
"destabilizing" and he is also sure that this time " it will not be easy for Turkey to fool the
EU; Similarly, French President Emmanuel Macron pushes for sanctions on Turkey. The
dispute between France and Turkey over Libya, the Eastern Mediterranean and the
Nagorno-Karabakh War has seriously deteriorated the mutual relations in the past couple of
months. According to French Foreign Minister, Jean-Yves Le Drian, Turkey’s; soothing
declarations; are not good enough to overcome these disagreements. Finally, the European
Parliament has recently called for the Council to impose tough sanctions on Turkey as well.
In the meantime, Turkey showed some positive steps on the eve of the EU council meeting.
First, President Erdoğan declared his intentions to work with the EU by stating that; We see
ourselves as an inseparable part of Europe and we want to build our future with Europe; these words have arguably been the clearest message to the EU in recent years. Second,
ahead of the EU summit, Turkey withdrew its seismic research vessel, Oruç Reis. Third, Presidential Spokesman and Chief Advisor to President, İbrahim Kalın, visited Brussels in the last days of November. During his meeting with high-level EU officials, he expressed once again that working with the EU is a strategic priority for Ankara and added Turkey still aims
to protect peace and stability in the region.

Like the previous meeting, the most critical actor in the process will be Germany. In October,
Germany, which holds the rotating Council presidency, opposed sanctions and initiated the
positive agenda strategy. However, more recently, Chancellor Angela Merkel declared that
the relations between the EU and Turkey did not reach the point that they wanted. Also, she
described Turkey’s activities in the Eastern Mediterranean as; aggressive; and; provocative; In the meantime, she mentioned that Turkey deserved great respect for hosting significant numbers of Syrian refugees.
In this situation, the most crucial question remains still the same: Will the EU impose
sanctions on Turkey? Actually, the answer is still not clear. On the one hand, France, Greece, and Cyprus will probably find this time more support from the other EU members, as there is no sign of progress about the situation in the Eastern Mediterranean and it can easily get out of control. On the other hand, as the EU’s High Representative for Foreign Affairs, Josep
Borrell stated that there are some willing and at the same time still more reluctant EU
countries about sanctions on Turkey. The diplomatic sources said especially Hungary is
Repeatedly rejecting possible sanctions by thinking of Turkey’s role in preventing illegal refugee
passages to the EU. Moreover, Spain and Italy seem not so contended about France’s increasing activities in the Mediterranean.
Then what we should wait for this critical meeting?
It seems that German decision-makers have still not decided on their next steps. That means
it is not very likely to see tough sanctions on Turkey as Greece, Cyprus, and France wanted.
Instead, we see probably a; last strong warning" from the EU to Turkey or a limited package
of sanctions. Without a doubt, both sides will try to strengthen their positions until the last
minute, and Chancellor Merkel will play once again a decisive role.


Dr.Başar Şirin

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