Since the signing of the Memorandum of Understanding between the Libyan GNA and Turkey, Ankara has increased its provocative moves in the Eastern Mediterranean. It has sent drilling ships in Greek and Cypriot waters, often accompanied by navy vessels. Such provocations to two European Member States have been rightly condemned across the EU but few substantive actions have been taken at an EU level. Furthermore, despite the efforts of Member States such as France or Germany, Turkey has not given up its aggressive stance in the Mediterranean. Turkish behaviour in the Eastern Mediterranean does not only constitute a challenge for Greece and Cyprus but has wider ramifications over a range of different issues and has implications for the Union as a whole. As such, the current tensions in the Eastern Mediterranean urgently requires a coordinated EU response.
Firstly, the European Commission has presented a detailed legal analysis on issues linked to the conflict, which are of exclusive EU competence and covered by EU law in the area of common fishery policy. As a reminder, what is challenged herein are the rights given to islands under UNCLOS, a UN Convention that the EU has signed and ratified as a full party.
Secondly, the Council should at least define a well-balanced, strong common response that goes beyond a strongly worded statement. As such initiatives have not only proven unsuccessful in persuading Turkey in the past but have angered it further. It is important therefore, to have a coordinated response, which will allow EU Council Members to trust each other, communicate, and share relevant information between them.
Thirdly, the European Parliament should call for a wider evaluation of the EU relations with Turkey concerning its candidacy to the Union: the respect of human rights, the rules of law and values, the management of the migration flow transiting Turkey towards Europe and the reworking of economic ties between the two sides. This evaluation, needs to take into account the drift of Erdogan’s Turkey, away from meeting the minimum required to be considered an EU candidate country, a status it still possesses.
Finally, it is necessary to recall that this situation can and should be solved through existing international law. Laws, as well as dispute-settlement mechanisms, exist for these sorts of matters and their use need to be promoted. If the European Union is able to coordinate a cohesive and effective response it will be possible to convince Turkey to settle this matter in court, as this remains the only peaceful and rightful conclusion to the problem.
The Conference on the Future of Europe is the right framework to start discussing these topics and set the permanent common structures needed for a strong European sovereignty.
The Union of European Federalists (UEF) is a pan-European, non-governmental political organisation dedicated to the promotion of European political unity. For more than 70 years UEF has been a leading voice in the promotion of European unity and an early campaigner for key milestones in the development of the European Communities and then the European Union. With 25 national sections and over 400 local groups across Europe, UEF promotes a federal Europe among citizens and political representatives at all levels of government. More on: www.federalists.eu
Alejandra O. Almarcha