Kathimerini Greece Newsroom
Cyprus has rejected a draft prepared for a summit of EU leaders this week which seeks to deepen trade ties with Turkey, describing it as “totally unacceptable.”
The report also said that the EU should be ready to impose economic sanctions if Ankara moves against the bloc’s interests.
The offer of closer economic links, mixed with threats, reflects the complex relationship between Turkey, an EU candidate, and the world’s largest trading bloc, which have drifted apart but are now seeking improved ties.
“Strengthening our already substantial economic ties is another win-win situation for both sides… At the heart of this would be the modernisation and expansion of the scope of the current EU-Turkey Customs Union,” said the report by EU foreign affairs chief Josep Borrell and the European Commission.
The report, made public on Tuesday, said Turkey deserved more financial support for hosting millions of Syrian refugees, as well as visa-free travel to the EU, more high-profile diplomatic contacts and an expanded customs union.
But such progress would only be possible if Turkey, respected human rights and showed greater flexibility over Cyprus and hydrocarbon rights in the eastern Mediterranean.
Taking back almost 1,500 migrants living on Greek islands, and whose legal appeals have now been exhausted, would also be critical.
“The situation of refugees in Turkey continues to deteriorate, aggravated by the Covid-19 pandemic and the economic downturn. Therefore, continued EU support will be required over the next years,” said the report.
The EU is expected to provide fresh funds from 2022 for the four million refugees that Turkey hosts, following some six billion euros ($7.13 billion) spent over the past four years.
The report said Turkey had failed to align its sanctions policy with that of the EU in the area of foreign policy, as it should have. Its policy on Libya often ran contrary to EU aims.
In December EU leaders proposed asset freezes and travel bans over Turkey’s “unauthorised drilling activities” for natural gas in disputed waters in the eastern Mediterranean.
But a more constructive tone from Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan this year prompted the EU to halt work on those sanctions.
The report said a sliding scale of sanctions, to be used only as leverage, could include punitive measures on individuals, moving up towards important sectors such as energy and tourism.
Targeting tourism, which accounts for up to 12% of the Turkish economy, appeared to be a new threat from Brussels, which has decried Erdogan’s increasingly authoritarian rule. Turkey’s EU membership talks are frozen.
“Should Turkey not move forward constructively in developing a genuine partnership with the EU, it should be made clear that this would bear political and economic consequences,” it said.
Dendias: Borrell report mainly 'positive'
The Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias described the report by European Union High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Josep Borrell on Turkey as “positive” as it “rightly views it as a problem for the EU as a whole.”
Speaking before the start of the EU Foreign Affairs Council on Monday, he noted however that the report has “shortcomings” in that it does not mention Turkey’s threat of casus belli against Greece, its actions in the town of Varosha in Turkish-occupied northern Cyprus, nor Ankara’s “direct violations” of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.
For the casus belli, however, according to sources, Dendias received a commitment from Borrell that it will be broached in the summit video conference on Thursday.
Apart from these shortcomings, Dendias stressed that the report “clearly includes the possibility of taking action against Turkey if it slips into unacceptable lawless behavior.”
According to diplomatic sources, Athens is satisfied with the approach toward Ankara, which included the outline of a positive agenda, but also the explicit and detailed prospect of restrictive measures.
As for the positive agenda, according to the same sources, it is stated that it could be implemented in a partial and mainly reversible way and that it will depend on whether Turkey shows constructive behavior in the coming months.
Athens was also satisfied with the fact that the report is clear on the issue of the delimitation of the exclusive economic zone and the continental shelf – namely that it should be addressed through a dialogue under international law, with an appeal to The Hague if no solution is found.
Satisfaction was also expressed with regard to the migrant-refugee issue and the reference made to the events that have transpired at the Evros land border and the interruption of the returns to Turkey from the Greek islands.