Nicosia welcomed Monday’s decision of the EU Foreign Affairs Council to draft a document with ways of dealing with Turkey’s failure to reverse its actions in the fenced area of Varosha. The document will presumably contain some punitive measures against Turkey even though it would be up to the European Council to decide what would be implemented.
There is a suspicion that Brussels is dragging its feet on the matter, with the document set to be presented at the next Foreign Affairs Council in November. It was almost three months ago, on July 27, that the foreign ministers had issued a statement setting out what they expected from Turkey with regard to Varosha. Turkey ignored what had been asked and the EU now has to grudgingly carry out some of its threats, probably the most anodyne.
We have been hearing about the imposition of sanctions against Turkey for its repeated violations of the Cypriot EEZ since June 2019 and all that has happened is two Turkish nationals were put on a sanctions list. Foreign Minister Nikos Christodoulides welcomed this at the time, hailing as a “significant step” the “clear policy of moving from statements of support to specific measures.”
This clear policy never materialised and two years later the EU is still considering what measures should be taken. In fact, the primary concern of Brussels was the smoothing of relations between Greece and Turkey after the standoff in the seas last year. With Ankara and Athens engaging in some form of dialogue, Brussels was happy to shelve the idea of sanctions, even though Turkey continued the violations of the Cypriot EEZ.
The EU’s High Representative of Foreign Affairs Josep Borrell on Monday referred to the “unacceptable” harassment of ships in the EEZ of member-states but also expressed the personal view that the only answer was the solution of the Cyprus problem within the framework of the UN Security Council. He acknowledged, reportedly, that Turkey was working outside the framework of the UN and the EU.
The Cyprus News Agency also reported that in the meeting Borrell had said that the liberalisation of visas for Turkish nationals or the renewal of the common declaration on immigration could not go ahead. These are just words and action is still some way off. Would our partners go down the path of punitive measures against Turkey, which they greatly depend on with regard to the immigration issue, to satisfy Cyprus, which sees sanctions against Turkey as an end in itself?
The feet-dragging over sanctions would seem to suggest that the EU is unwilling to sour its relations with Turkey to satisfy Nicosia’s desire for sanctions.