Athens Pushes for Sanctions on Turkey at EU Summit



Turkish vessel the Oruc Reis is escorted into Greek waters by five Turkish Navy vessels on Monday, August 10. Photo: Turkish Defense Ministry

Greece has put all possible diplomatic gears in motion in pushing for sanctions on Turkey at the upcoming European Union Summit on December 10, counting on the support of France.

Although Ankara has ceased all its provocative acts against Greece by putting on hold the illegal activities of the research vessel Oruc Reis inside Greece’s continental shelf, Athens views this as Ankara simply wanting to show its peaceful face while preparations for the summit kick into gear.

Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis is making contacts with EU leaders in preparation for the summit, while Minister of Foreign Affairs Nikos Dendias has contacted his counterparts. They are both arguing for the importance of sanctions on Turkey for its disruptive behavior in the Eastern Mediterranean.

Turkey’s economy is on the brink of collapse as the lira has plunged to its lowest mark in many years. Ankara is now making a last ditch effort to reverse the climate of discontent and frustration in Brussels and most European capitals — and to avoid sanctions, which could prove to be unbearable.

Greece, for its part, has made a laundry list of all of Turkey’s illegal, provocative actions in the Eastern Mediterranean since the October EU Summit, when Ankara was warned that if it continues with such behavior, there will be sanctions imposed against the country. At the same time, Athens insists that all the acts of good will Ankara has shown in the past few days are just a smokescreen.

According to analysts, EU Council Chairman Josep Borrell should have been compiling a list of Turkeys’ illegal acts since August, but the High Representative has not presented such a document yet.

It should be noted that in the past few months, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and top officials have often spoken out against Europe and the EU. In the past few days, however, Erdogan made statements about Turkey’s place being in the European Union. All these contradictory statements and positions are definitely not in favor of Turkey.

Greece’s allies who favor sanctions on Turkey

So far, the most ardent supporter of the EU imposing sanctions on Turkey is French President Emanuel Macron. The French leader has repeatedly sided with Greece against Turkey’s recent provocations in the Aegean and the Eastern Mediterranean in general.

In fact Macron has been the recipient of several scathing remarks from Erdogan, so the French President appears ready to take initiatives on the issue. Austria is on the same wavelength, while Luxembourg, Ireland and the Czech Republic also stand on the side of Greece and Cyprus. The stance of the Netherlands has changed in favor of the sanctions, even though in the beginning the country was against them.

Analysts say that the attitude of Germany and Spain is of particular importance, as both countries have strong economic interests in Turkey, while Germany also has three million citizens of Turkish descent. These are the two countries that would be likely to block sanctions on Turkey.

Imposing sanctions on a country requires a unanimous decision of all member states and a certain process to be followed. If there is a unanimous decision, EU High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Borrell will be called to draw up a list of sanctions against Turkey, which will be activated if Ankara continues its provocative actions in the near future.

If indeed all the EU member states unanimously decide that Turkey should be punished for its aggressive behavior, the procedures for imposing sanctions on the country will take substantial time until they materialize.

For some analysts, this will give Erdogan time to continue acting as the Eastern Mediterranean bully for just a little while longer, showing his habitual disrespect for the EU’s decisions, as he has so often in the past.