Home / World / EU unlikely to sanction Turkey for gas drilling in the Mediterranean, says former EU ambassador

EU unlikely to sanction Turkey for gas drilling in the Mediterranean, says former EU ambassador



French President Emmanuel Macron (R) welcomes Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis (L).

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LONDON – The European Union will not go so far as to impose sanctions on Turkey, a regional expert told CNBC, despite Ankara’s controversial activity in the Mediterranean Sea.

Turkey, Greece and Cyprus have disagreed over the former̵

7;s exploration of energy resources in parts of the eastern Mediterranean waters that both Athens and Nicosia claim are part of their territory. The countries and territories of this region include Greece, Turkey, Cyprus, Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Israel, Palestine, Egypt and Libya.

The dispute, which dates back over four decades, has intensified in recent weeks. Turkey’s attempt to expand its oil and gas resources in the eastern Mediterranean also resulted in a minor collision between two frigates last month.

Greece, increasingly angered by what it describes as “illegal” activity by Turkey, has called on its EU partners to impose “tough sanctions” on Ankara. EU leaders will discuss the standoff among NATO members at an emergency meeting in two weeks’ time.

For its part, Turkey has claimed that it has every right to prospect in the contested waters and accuses Greece of trying to grab an unfair share of the maritime resources.

“The leaders can only restore their solidarity with Greece,” Marc Pierini, a former EU ambassador to Turkey, told CNBC earlier this month.

“Sanctions wouldn’t do much here,” he said.

Turkey ‘willing to play hard’

The Turkish economy has struggled in recent years and the global recession has added further pressure to the struggling nation. Furthermore, the political party of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has lost its traditional dominance in the country.

Vassilis Ntousas, a policy expert at Chatham House, told CNBC that Erdogan was trying to “cement” his legacy by adopting a more assertive regional policy.

He added that Turkey was trying to “play a stronger role in the region and is willing to play hard”.

This is another occasion that forces the EU to think about what a forward-looking relationship with Turkey would be like.

Vassilis Ntousas

policy expert at Chatham House

According to Euronews, Turkish officials have asked the European Union to mediate the situation in an honest way, rather than siding with Greece and Cyprus.

At the summit of southern European countries on Thursday, French President Emmanuel Macron said the goal was “to rediscover dialogue with Turkey, without naivety and in good faith”.

The relationship between Turkey and the EU has been strained several times. In 2005, Ankara started negotiations to become an EU member. The process was always expected to take a long time, but the talks were effectively frozen in 2018 after the EU said Turkey was backing down on democratic commitments, the rule of law and fundamental rights.

However, Turkey has played a key role in EU immigration policy. The 27-member bloc agreed in 2015 to shell out 3 billion euros (3.5 billion dollars) in exchange for Turkey to stem the flow of migrants into European territory.

“This is another occasion that forces the EU to think about what a forward-looking relationship with Turkey would be like,” said Ntousas.


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