PRESIDENT Anastasiades’ visit to Paris for a meeting with President Emmanuel Macron on Thursday was a big success. Not only had Macron taken a very clear stand against Turkey’s illegal activities in the eastern Mediterranean, but he also acknowledged the EU was not doing enough to stop Turkey’s violations of Greek and Cypriot sovereignty.
It was a big boost for Cyprus and Greece to hear that they are not alone in calling for more EU sanctions against Turkey and that one of the most powerful EU states fully supported their demand. “It is unacceptable that the maritime space of (EU) member states be violated and threatened, those who are doing that must be sanctioned,” said Macron after Thursday’s meeting.
He also identified a bigger issue at stake in the eastern Mediterranean – a struggle for power by Turkey and Russia, which were asserting themselves more and more, while the EU was doing too little to stop them. What he said about not leaving “our security in the Mediterranean to other actors,” would have been music to the ears of the governments of Cyprus and Greece, as would have been his assertion: “This is not an option for Europe and it is not something that France would allow to happen.”
Anastasiades could not have asked for more from France’s president, even though we will have to wait and see whether these words would be turned into EU sanctions. On the same day, however, EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Josep Borrell, had a telephone conversation with Turkey’s foreign minister, Mevlut Cavusoglu and said they agreed “on need to de-escalate tensions (in the Mediterranean) and meet ahead of informal Gymnich meeting,” scheduled for the end of August.
The EU top brass and the German presidency have not given up on their efforts to initiate an EU-Turkey dialogue, a proposal for which was rejected by the council of foreign ministers the previous week. This dialogue had been planned before the pandemic, but was put on hold. In other words, not all the EU member-states support the option of sanctions which if imposed would eliminate any idea of dialogue between the bloc and Turkey.
As for Macron’s warning about Russia’s and Turkey’s attempts to assert their power in the Mediterranean, his fears do not seem to be shared by other states. Perhaps Cyprus and Greece would have to consider ways of winning over other influential EU governments to the idea of sanctions, because important as France’s support is, it might not be enough for them to achieve their objective.