The EU leaders’ summit on Friday did not bode well for Greece, especially as five countries are blocking sanctions against Turkey. More precisely, it had a worse ending than the previous Summit on October 2. Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis did what he could to strengthen its diplomatic line of defense against intentions of the Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. However, Mitsotakis’ ambitions clashed with the different interests of specific Member States of the EU.
The Greek side submitted a proposal on the imposition of an embargo on arms sales to Turkey, which was ultimately not included in the text of the previous conclusions. The Prime Minister in his press conference did not try to cover the back and forth of European leaders. The opposite. The atmosphere prevailing in Brussels for Turkey was summed up by a Community diplomatic source with the phrase “difficult days are coming”.
Without a single national front
Athens is fully aware of the situation and the obstacles they will need to overcome. They understand that the sanctions, at this stage, will mean the destruction of all hope for dialogue with Turkey and that is why Mitsotakis wants the threat to be on the table but does not demand their immediate imposition.
Even with Greece, he is facing opposition from the SYRIZA political party, which is pushing for sanctions and the immediate extension of territorial waters from 6 nautical miles to 12, and the Movement for Change, which is denouncing the government’s complacency. An opposition rhetoric that does not facilitate its manipulations or the creation of a united national front.
Strong disapproval of the Conclusions
Turkey’s continuing provocation in the Eastern Mediterranean was not to be discussed at this Summit and the issue was reopened due to the insistence of the Greek Prime Minister and Cypriot President Nikos Anastasiadis. Finally, the European Council’s “strong disapproval” of the new unilateral and provocative actions of Turkey in the Eastern Mediterranean, including recent research activities, was included in the Conclusions. There is also an explicit reference to the need for Turkey to respect Security Council Resolutions 550 and 789 on Varosha in occupied northern Cyprus. The European Council called on Turkey to reverse these actions and work to reduce tensions in a consistent and systematic manner, and warned that it would continue to monitor the issue closely.
The reminder of the arms embargo
Regarding the arms embargo on Turkey, Mitsotakis reminded the other leaders that in previous European Council decisions on the Turkish provocation in Syria, decisions were taken by some member states, which referred to an embargo.
“I recalled this because the best expression of European solidarity with two countries facing such threats would be a European initiative or possibly initiatives at the level of European Member States, which would no longer allow arms sales to Turkey which could be used to threaten the sovereignty and sovereign rights of two Member States,” he said.
Germany and France had requested an arms embargo against Turkey in October 2019, but failed to reach a unanimity. Mitsotakis added that the United States had decided not to sell fifth-generation F-35 fighter jets to Turkey because it had bought S-400s from Russia, a weapons system that poses a threat to NATO, and that Canada had stopped exporting weapons systems to Turkey following the events in Artsakh.
“I raised the issue at the European Council. I think my position has been fully understood,” he said.
Who supported and who blocked
Maybe, but that did not stop, according to information, Germany, Spain, Italy, Hungary and Malta from blocking the embargo, due to a network of economic reasons and fear of illegal immigration which has been instrumentalized by Erdoğan. Greece was supported by France, Austria and Slovenia, while the other countries simply did not care. Especially the Eastern ones, after the imposition of sanctions on Belarus, do not deal with Turkey at all.
Mitsotakis was disarmingly honest when he said that at the previous summit, when leaders discussed Turkey at length, “it was clear that we had a long way to go to explain to our European counterparts why this issue is not just important for Greece and Cyprus, but that it is crucial for Europe and for geopolitical stability in the Eastern Mediterranean. I believe that after each meeting we still have a long way to go in this direction.”
He reiterated twice that December is the deadline for Europe to make its decisions in the event that Turkey continues unilateral action in violation of international law.
The extension to 12 nautical miles
According to the Prime Minister, the countries that were expecting a positive development were unpleasantly surprised by the new provocation of the Oruç Reis Turkish research vessel conducting seismic surveys in the East Mediterranean. But he was also surprised, as it appeared in the press conference, by the noise caused by the position of the Minister of State George Gerapetritis, that Greece’s territorial waters extend to 6 n.m.
He said that the unilateral extension to 12 miles of territorial waters, which is a right of the Greek State, will be exercised at a time of its own choosing and not during the current tensions.
“Territorial waters are the core of sovereignty. Hard domination,” Mitsotakis said and noted that it is an inalienable right of Greece to extend its territorial waters to 12 nautical miles. “Everyone knows why it has not been done in the Aegean yet.”
He did not mention the Eastern Mediterranean because things are even more complex. Erdoğan continues to challenge because, apparently, he considers that he did not write the notes he wants in order to consent to the dialogue. European leaders, on the other hand, may be tired of the issue, and the question arises as to how much they will continue to resist Turkey’s push for a dialogue with an enlarged agenda and how much it benefits Greece to start a dialogue in a tense situation, and therefore suffocating pressures.
The Armed Forces are on standby
The government believes that it must save time because time is on its side. It also consciously avoids responding to Turkish provocations in a way that would trigger conflict through our own fault in order to keep intact the grid of alliances it has formed to exploit it in a possible military engagement. Although he avoids it, the Prime Minister has put the Armed Forces on standby.
French President Emanuel Macron is firmly on the side of Greece.
“We reiterated our support in Greece and Cyprus. We will come back with decisions,” he said on Friday.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel did not hide her anger at Erdoğan, whom she blamed for the failure of its mediation effort, and described Turkey’s actions as “sad and unnecessary”, but maintained that it was in the interest of developing the EU-Turkey relationship.
New German initiatives
A high-ranking EU official, in an informal briefing, said that Turkey was not making fun of Europe, but that there was no single line within it, and that he had the impression that Erdoğan did not understand exactly what the European leaders had decided. He also revealed that the German presidency will soon take a new initiative, as the goal of all is to start Greek-Turkish talks immediately and to avoid the possibility of a military conflict.
Moves to strengthen the defense relationship with the United States
The government is making two strategic moves aimed at further strengthening the defense relationship between Greece and the United States. The first concerns the long-suffering Hellenic Aerospace Industry and the scenario under consideration is in the first phase a joint venture with a large shape from abroad to undertake running the projects quickly, so that the company can create new jobs and then look for a strategic investor in its share capital. Any interested investor will consider the big contracts for the training program with the United Arab Emirates, the Lockheed Martin programs and possibly a new partnership with Dassault Rafale.
The second move concerns the shipyards. With the participation of the American US International Development Finance Corporation (DFC) and ONEX in the Elefsina Shipyards but also in the competition for the Scaramanga Shipyards, an attempt is being made to build a very strong shipyard industry in Greece. The due diligence process is underway, where data is exchanged between DFC, ONEX and Elefsina Shipyards, so that ONEX is funded by DFC in order to complete the acquisition agreement of the shipyards. The amount of funding requested is around 100 million. Regarding the Elefsina Shipyards, the Ministry of Development is in constant contact with their main creditors (Navy, State and banks) with the aim of a successful outcome of the legal process for the consolidation of the company.
Kroustalli Dimitra is a correspondent for To Vima.