THE government scored a moral victory following the European Foreign Affairs Council’s decision for restrictive measures to be taken against individuals and companies involved in the illegal Turkish drilling in the Cypriot EEZ. The decision now requires the approval of the European Council – meeting on Thursday and Friday – which is a formality.
There is only one small snag. For the restrictive measures to be implemented the legal framework must be prepared by the EU, a process that could take longer than a year to complete. This, however, should not detract from the government’s success. It had argued for restrictive measures by the EU against those involved in the Turkish drilling in the summer when Turkey sent its drill-ships off Cyprus and secured the decision to this effect on Monday. How long it will take to implement is another matter.
It was entirely expected of the political parties in Cyprus, while welcoming the measures, to criticise the government for delaying taking this course of action. The delay in taking measures encouraged the illegal activities of Turkey, said Solidarity, while Diko believed that if its proposal, made some two years ago, was pursued earlier, “we might not have reached the point of the escalation of Turkish illegalities and especially the invasion by the Turks of block 7 in the Cypriot EEZ.” To counter this delay, the government should step up its efforts “in causing a real political and economic cost to Turkey, including the imposition of additional sanctions,” said Diko.
The parties’ analysis could not be more simplistic. First, the assumption that all Cyprus had to do was demand tough sanctions from the EU to incur a heavy cost to Turkey is laughable. Does Cyprus call the shots in the EU, which was beholden to Turkey over the refugee issue? And would the EU have imposed sanctions because the Barbaros conducted surveys in the Cypriot EEZ? More importantly, do the Cyprus parties think that Turkey’s president, who has repeatedly proved his contempt for international law, would have called off exploratory drilling because of the threat of EU sanctions? His army has just invaded Syria despite international condemnation and the threat of sanctions. Does anyone seriously believe that EU sanctions would have stopped Turkey’s illegal drilling?
The reality is that the restrictive measures secured by the Cyprus government was the maximum it could have achieved and even though these are unlikely to stop Turkey’s illegal drilling and violations of the Cypriot EEZ, they are a small moral victory.