Local media reported on Sunday that the Cypriot government had strong indications that the Turkish drill ship “Fatih” started its drilling activity off the west of the island. These indications, it was said, concern the shipping of material associated with drilling, such as cement and mud.
As a response Nicosia was demanding a tougher EU line on Turkey in upcoming EU summits.
EU ministers meeting on Tuesday , as well as the EU’s national leaders due to meet in Brussels on Thursday and Friday, are expected to issue a warning to Ankara. Cyprus and Greece said they would seek tough EU sanctions against Turkey.
The current language of the draft ministerial statement says Turkey “continues to move further away from the European Union” and calls on Ankara to stop its illegal drilling. EU governments are expected to express "serious concerns" about Turkey`s drilling activities in the Eastern Mediterranean and will vow to "respond appropriately in full solidarity with the Republic of Cyprus" in a statement which will be issued on Tuesday by the General Affairs Council, according to diplomatic sources who briefed the press in Luxembourg.
Nicosia is already taking legal measures against companies that cooperate with the Turkish Petroleum Corporation in the Cypriot continental shelf/EEZ.
Diplomats said Cyprus was seeking a clearer formulation that, should Ankara not change track, the EU could formally end talks on upgrading its customs union with Turkey and on the right for visa-free travel for Turkish citizens traveling to the EU, as well as cutting funds for the key NATO ally.
The EU formally halted Turkey’s long-stalled membership bid over President Tayyip Erdogan’s sweeping crackdown on critics following a failed 2016 coup.
European Union states were at loggerheads yesterday over starting talks with Albania and North Macedonia to enter the bloc, while Cyprus warned it would veto any agreement on future enlargement unless the EU toughens its line on Turkish drilling.
EU ministers from the bloc’s 28 states meet in Luxembourg on Tuesday to discuss starting formal membership negotiations with the two Balkan countries a year after France and the Netherlands had blocked it, demanding more reforms in the fear of upsetting their parliaments and voters at home.
At stake is also the EU’s own credibility and the bloc’s willingness to act against what it sees as growing influence by Russia and other foreign powers in the region still scarred by wars fought along religious and ethnic lines in the 1990s.