As the Turkish research ship Oruç Reis enters and leaves Greek waters unhindered, Sputnik Hellas pieces the geopolitical puzzle that Europe is forming around the Greek-Turkish conflict.

At a time when Greek-Turkish relations are being shaken due to the increased Turkish provocation in the Aegean, the Europeans continue to “finance” Turkey.

The EU General Affairs Council may have decided in June 2018 that accession negotiations with Turkey have been “frozen,” but the neighbor is still receiving pre-accession assistance.

In the last six years alone, between 2014 and 2020, around €740 million a year was EU support to Turkey, totaling €4.5 billion, up from a total of €9.3 billion since 2007.

This is a problem that is timeless and the data is outrageous since it is granted to a state that openly threatens the EU on its southern borders.

If you look at the website of the European Investment Bank, you will see that Turkey has been granted finance since 1965. In fact, the bank has all this time financed 261 development projects to the amount of 30 to 43 billion euros in a number of sectors.

And while Turkey was raising its voice in the Aegean, the EU Commissioner for Neighborhood and Enlargement announced that not only is Turkey still a candidate (following a request from Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan) but is also included in pre-accession assistance under the Multiannual Financial Framework 2021-2027 agreed on 21 July.

Greece has never raised the issue of approving the EU budget for Turkey. Greece does not seem to have raised such an issue in general either, said lawyer Polykarpos Adamidis, an Associate Professor of Community Law and International Relations at the Military School of Guards.

However, Members of the European Parliament from at least two Greek political parties want information to be submitted to the European Parliament regarding the possibility of an even greater reduction in Turkey’s pre-accession funding from the EU.

“Certainly the reduction or the cessation of the funds could be a bargaining chip. But if you cut off all expectations from someone, then what right and what opportunity do you have to talk to him?” emphasized Adamidis to to Sputnik Hellas.

Indeed, the EU made a small cut in funding to Turkey in July 2019, reducing pre-accession financial assistance to the country by 2020 by €145.8 million.

This happened when Turkey first sent a drilling ship to the Mediterranean in May 2019, which carried out seismic surveys and exploratory drilling off Cyprus.

However, a year later, the Turks continue to send ships to the territorial waters of Greece and Cyprus, while disputing the maritime territory of Greece and the EU with the Turkish-Libyan Muslim Brotherhood memorandum.

The role of Germany

Germany in the current context has to solve a difficult puzzle, especially since it is the current head of the European Union.

“It has an additional responsibility at the helm of the EU, but it remains in charge of ensuring a balance between its state interest as well as EU interest. No one should forget the huge cycle of economic and trade between Germany and Turkey,” the professor said.

According to other sources, the Germans have expressed dissatisfaction with the diplomatic initiative to delimit the Exclusive Economic Zones between Greece and Egypt. This is also said to be one of the reasons why Germany did not intervene in the current Greek-Turkish crisis.

What is hidden in Erdoğan’s verbal attack?

In recent days, the Turkish political leadership has been threatening Greece with casus beli in case Greek territorial waters in the Aegean are expanded to 12 miles as legally allowed by international law. However, Erdoğan has also verbally attacked the Greek and French leaderships, calling them incompetent.

“When attacks are carried out at the level of individuals and not at the level of states and national interests, this clearly shows the non-acceptance of rules without framework and behavior. As Erdoğan involves leaders and individuals, the issue now concerns him as he seeks his personal longevity to stay in power. Erdoğan is the one who allegedly raises the issue of his personal longevity and survival, which makes it a problem for Turkey as well. It creates a cycle of controversy to make it necessary for him to remain in power, satisfying his electoral audience,” said Adamidis.

At the same time, he estimates that there may be an additional escalation with what this may entail, adding that it will not be a surprise if in the next period we see drilling in Greek maritime space after conducting the surveys.

The role of France

In this context, France’s defensive words towards Greece cause a positive feeling in many Greek citizens. Some interpret the fact that the aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle, the flagship of the French navy, accompanied by “stealth” ships and submarines, sails to the Eastern Mediterranean.

However, Adamidis states that this is a need for an active presence in Lebanon.

“The arrival of the aircraft carrier has nothing to do with the Turkish provocation, but with the developments in Lebanon. Its interest has been expressed since the day after the explosion in the port of Beirut, with the first visit of President [Emmanuel] Macron. But the new visit of the French President also shows an attempt by France to persuade Lebanon to make commitments to the French for the assistance offered in terms of reconstruction. Greece must step firmly on its feet, aware of the geopolitical landscape and not believe that the French are preparing to give a lifeline to a confrontation with Turkey,” he said.

Can the EU help Greek-Turkish?

“It would be ideal for the EU to have all the armed forces of the Member States. But let us be pragmatic. The EU is a huge achievement of the modern world and the most valuable tool for Greece. This allows us to discuss an additional package of sanctions that includes confiscation of property, accounts, a possible ban on Turkish vessels docking in EU member states’ ports. But to do all this, we need enough people to claim them. There are no magic solutions and no one will give anything to Greece,” noted the professor.

A more aggressive tactic towards the EU is proposed by the former Greek ambassador, Leonidas Chrysanthopoulos:

“Our country should threaten to veto sanctions against Belarus, and create a problem in updating the list of individuals and entities that have been targeted in Russia. Effective blackmail could be the start of discussions in Greece for a possible exit of our country from an incompetent EU that is not able to effectively protect the territorial integrity of its members.”

The views authored by Lambros Zacharis for Sputnik Hellas does not necessarily reflect those of Greek City Times.

Guest Blogger

This piece was written for GCT by a guest blogger.