On December 10th, European leaders at an EU summit approved sanctions on Turkey, over its drilling in the Mediterranean Sea.
During a videoconference on December 7th, EU foreign ministers concluded Ankara had aggravated existing tensions in the eastern Mediterranean since the October summit.
EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell, who chaired the meeting, expressed disappointment at the lack of progress regarding ongoing regional disputes.
“We have not seen a fundamental change of direction in Turkey’s behavior,” Borrell said Monday. “On the contrary, in several aspects the situation has worsened.”
According to a draft statement seen by Reuters, the sanctions will be imposed on individuals and companies linked to gas drilling activities near Greece and Cyprus that have raised regional tensions over the last year.
The sanctions would expand on a 2019 framework through which the European Union can impose sanctions on people, companies or organizations linked to energy-prospecting activities in contested areas.
In a little hand-slap action, back in February 2020, EU officials approved travel bans and asset freezes for two Turkish officials — the vice president and a deputy director of the Turkish Petroleum Corporation.
Back in October, the leaders offered “a positive political EU-Turkey agenda” to Ankara, including trade and customs benefits and the prospect of more funds to help Turkey manage Syrian refugees on its territory if it halts its “illegal activities” in the eastern Mediterranean.
However, now, they decided to show some backbone.
EU’s Foreign Ministers unanimously agreed that Turkey’s behaviour has not improved. After chairing their videoconference on Monday, EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said “in several aspects, the situation has worsened”.
“The stakes are very precise, very clear: the credibility of the European Union,” Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis told reporters. He recalled that the leaders said in October that there would be consequences if Turkey “continued its delinquent behaviour”.
“So now, it will be seen whether, as Europe, we are really credible in what we ourselves have agreed to,” Mitsotakis said.
Currently, Greece, France and Cyprus push for tougher sanctions, with others being allegedly more moderate.
“France will keep a clear position,” said French President Emmanuel Macron, ahead of the summit. “We must be coherent with the decisions and our demands to Turkey from last October, draw the consequences and we must defend sovereignty and stability of EU states, in particular in the eastern Mediterranean but also the whole region.”
On the day before, December 9th, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan brushed off the threat of sanctions and accused the EU, which Turkey is a candidate to join although its membership talks are blocked, of acting “dishonestly” and failing to keep its promises.
“The EU has never acted honestly. It has never kept its promises,” Erdogan said, adding, “Any sanctions decisions that can be taken against Turkey do not concern us much.”
At the same time, on December 10th, it was reported that the Trump administration also planned to impose sanctions on Turkey in regard to the purchase of a Russian S-400 missile defense system.
The sanctions would target Turkey’s Presidency of Defense Industries and its head, Ismail Demir, several Reuters sources have said. Several sources said they were expecting the announcement on December 11th but one said it could come any day.
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