European Union leaders meeting in Brussels on Thursday decided to impose a limited list of sanctions against Turkish individuals and companies associated with Ankara’s illegal drillings in the eastern Mediterranean, but failed to agree on tough sanctions, as had been demanded by Greece and Cyprus.
The vice-president of the Turkish Petroleum Corporation and the deputy director of its exploration department are currently on an EU sanctions list. The new sanctions would add as-yet-unspecified individuals and organizations to that list.
In a lukewarm statement agreed upon late at night, the EU noted that “Regrettably, Turkey has engaged in unilateral actions and provocations and escalated its rhetoric against the EU, EU member states and European leaders.”
However, the statement does not include any reference to an arms embargo, or wider sanctions that would target larger sectors of Turkey’s economy, both of which had been under consideration.
EU leaders left the door open for a stricter measures in the future, instructing EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell to compile a report on EU-Turkey political, economic and trade relations to “expand the scope” of action by the EU leaders’ summit in March 2021. These measures may include trade tariffs or an arms embargo.
It appeared that the body may be waiting until they have a chance to consult with the upcoming Biden administration about further sanctions.
The Turkish Ministry of Foreign Affairs responded to the news by stating “We reject the biased and unlawful attitude which had to be inserted into the December 10 EU summit conclusions after the pressure of solidarity and veto.”
The foreign ministry called the decisions reached in today’s summit “unlawful” and that they had “once again ignored Turkish Cypriot people, who are co-owners of the island of Cyprus”.
The names of those facing sanctions will reportedly be published in the next few weeks by EU foreign affairs chief Josep Borrell.
Greek Prime Minister insists sanctions “not an end in themselves”
Greece had pushed for a much tougher EU response. Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said ahead of the summit that “the credibility of the European Union” was on the line, and further stated that EU leaders had promised consequences during the last summit in October if Turkey “continued its delinquent behavior.”
Athens put on a brave and diplomatic face after the EU decision. PM Mitsotakis, speaking during a press conference after the limited sanctions on Turkish individuals were announced, put the best possible interpretation on the events of the day.
“Sanctions (against Turkey) are not an end in itself,” Mitsotakis said, while adding that the Union 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, it is united, it supports Greece and Cyprus, it is present,” he added.
Government officials had earlier told the Athens-Macedonia News Agency (AMNA) that they welcomed a decision by European Union leaders to prepare limited sanctions on Turkish individuals over its provocations in recent months as “a strong warning to Turkey to change its behavior.”
“Europe takes one step at a time. It did the same thing at this (European) Council. It took another step in what was a strong warning to Turkey to change its behavior,” government sources said.