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Our View: The government appears to have lost its enthusiasm for sanctions

The European Commission

For weeks before October’s EU summit, the president and his foreign minister engaged in unrelenting rhetoric about the sanctions that would be imposed against Turkey for its continual violations of Cyprus’ EEZ. Apart from regularly lambasting the EU’s policy of appeasement towards Turkey we were also told that President Anastasiades would safeguard the core values and basic principles of the Union at the summit.

Nicosia also blocked the imposing of sanctions against Belarus in attempt to force the summit to take measures against Turkey, provoking the ire of the Commission and several member-states. The plan did not work, but it gave the government the opportunity to accuse the EU of double standards and of betraying its principles and values on the issue of Turkey. The October summit displayed double standards but decided to revisit the issue of sanctions when it met in December, if Turkey continued the violations.

Strangely, the Anastasiades government has drastically toned down its rhetoric on sanctions, ahead of the European Council that starts today, even though there is big chance some will be imposed this time. According to the draft statement being prepared for the Council that was seen by Reuters, the EU will place more individuals and companies on the sanctions list prepared in 2019; this is subject to the Council giving its go-ahead. Reuters also reported that negotiations were ongoing as Cyprus and Greece felt sanctions did not go far enough.

Press reports suggest that Anastasiades has changed tack since the last summit, recognising that it was excessive to demand Turkey was targeted exclusively on the grounds of its ongoing dispute with Cyprus over hydrocarbons. He would supposedly argue that sanctions were justified because of Turkey’s actions in Libya, Syria, Iraq, Nagorno-Karabakh and the Aegean not just for the violations of the Cypriot EEZ.

The government appears to have lost its enthusiasm for sanctions, foreign minister Nicos Christodoulides, their biggest champion a few months ago, conceding recently they were not an end in themselves. Is this because the government was burned the last time, when it stepped up the sanctions’ rhetoric and delivered nothing and has now decided to lower expectations? Another explanation is that it may have realised Cyprus had nothing practical to gain from a few more names on the sanctions list; on the contrary, this could make the resumption of Cyprus talks, which the government, supposedly, is committed to, more difficult.

It remains to be seen what the European leaders will decide, but the fact is that Turkey is a valued trading partner of the EU, not to mention its role in preventing millions of refugees heading to Europe. At least this time, Anastasiades has avoided raising expectations and making promises he cannot deliver.


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