The European Summit postponed substantive decisions that Greece expected regarding Turkey for March, opting instead for limited sanctions on Turkish individuals over Ankara's transgressions in the eastern Mediterranean, against Cyprus in particular.
The decision was made largely due to the fact that German Chancellor Angela Merkel convinced French President Emmanuel Macron to wait for the new U.S. administration. Kathimerini reported on Dec. 12.
According to the Greek daily, Macron was apparently convinced by Merkel’s argument that the new U.S. administration that will take over on Jan. 20 will lead to a more moderate policy on the part of Ankara. Spain and Italy joined forces on this line, stressing for the umpteenth time the importance of Turkey for the European Union and the need to “give diplomacy another chance.”
In addition, despite growing frustration in Paris over Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s policies and rhetoric in recent months, the French president shares Berlin’s concerns that a confrontational turn against Turkey will push it even closer to Moscow and Beijing.
Nonetheless, Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said EU leaders sent a strict warning to Turkey over its drilling activities in the eastern Mediterranean.
“Sanctions [against Turkey] are not an end in itself,” Mitsotakis said, adding, however, that the EU will respond with penalties “if Turkey insists on continuing with this provocative behavior.”
“Turkey is expected to change its ways and it has been understood that Europe is moving, if at its own pace,” he said, noting that the bloc is united and “supports Greece and Cyprus, it is present.”
Although the final text of the European Council’s conclusions regarding Turkey was an improvement on the original draft of Dec. 9, it was however far from the solid response that Athens wanted.
A series of factors stood in the way of Greece’s pursuit of a more substantial response to Turkey. The Berlin-Rome-Madrid bloc insisted on a soft line – with the Italians and Spaniards particularly negative about the prospect of new sanctions against Ankara.
Greece’s position was further compromised by the apparent reluctance of France to insist on tougher measures, while Austria, another strong voice against Ankara, also seemed to be on board with a less biting response.
The conclusions of Dec. 11 call for additional sanctions for “unauthorized drilling activities by Turkey in the eastern Mediterranean” – concerning those in Cyprus’ exclusive economic zone.
In addition, EU High Representative Josep Borrell is invited to assess the possibility of “extending the scope” of these sanctions in his Euro-Turkish relations report which will be prepared by the European Council in March.