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Europe's East Mediterranean Fiasco

In a post on Twitter, Turkey’s Minister of Transport and Infrastructure Adil Karaismailoglu, announced that Turkey has expanded its search and rescue area of responsibility to cover the “Blue Homeland,” a doctrine which aspires to give Turkey control over the waters of the eastern Aegean and the northern Mediterranean.

   In the map posted by Mr Karaismailoglu, half of the Aegean Sea- which is Greek and thus EU waters apparently, is assigned to Turkey's "Blue Homeland". That alone should have caused an uproar in the EU and Greece's European partners, but in reality, after Germany's request, any decision on sanctions or action against Turkey, has been delayed until December.


   Which of course means that Greece and Cyprus will have to just get used to Turkish ships violating their waters, while their European counterparts.... are trying to achieve what exactly? The more they show disunity and reluctance in decisively dealing with Erdogan's government, the more he is going to test Greece and Europe to get what he wants.  He will push it as far as he can to challenge the EU.

   Turkey has been signaling its intentions for some time now, yet Europe is unable to make up its mind on how to deal with its growing aggression and confidence. The involvement of Turkish troops in Northern Syria, Libya, the support towards Azerbaijan in its ongoing war against Armenia, never mind its treatment of Greece and Cyprus, should worry Europe. But for now, Germany remains calm and eager to appease Erdogan.

   It is understandable that many EU countries have interests in Turkey, and not just Germany; Italy, Malta, Spain, the Netherlands too, have agreements with the Turks. However, if they do not act towards Turkey in the same way they acted against Belarus and Russia over Lukashenko and Navalny's poisoning, any efforts of the EU achieving credibility as a world player and political power will be laughable. What use will the EU  have if it cannot protect its own member states from a third country, even on purely financial terms?

   Recently, Greece has signed some very successful agreements for gas exploration in the region with Israel and Cyprus. It also saw some billion worth of investment from Microsoft. These achievements are all in jeopardy if Greece enters into a war or conflict with Turkey, which begs the question: does Europe really want to see a prosperous and stable Greece and southern Balkan region?

   Right now the block is bound together by primarily financial agreements, with any effort for a single foreign policy and a bigger role in the world affairs being blocked by national governments and their interests. Who can take seriously the EU if it mainly shoots its arrows towards Russia and China, which are foremost a threat to the American hegemony.

   The only country which tried to bring some attention to its cause, was of course Cyprus. The tiny island nation took a stand and blocked sanctions against Belarus, if the same was not in consideration for Turkey. In the early October EU Summit however, it compromised and conceded to pressure from its partners to give up its veto. We can only imagine what promises or threats its EU peers made, in order for Cyprus to agree.

   Perhaps the recent decision by its government to give up its "golden passport" scheme is a clue, in which Cypriot -- thus EU passport and effectively citizenship -- could be sold to millionaires from around the world in exchange of a hefty lump-sum, . The EU had its sight on this scheme for some time now, so most likely Cyprus had to give it up in exchange of something that is yet to be revealed.

   Because Cyprus is not the only EU member state that adopted such practices. Malta and Bulgaria have the same scheme in place and although they faced similar criticism, they are yet to be compliant to the block's pressure, even it would be the right thing to do; a widespread EU ban on citizenship trade.

   The island nation had it tough from Turkey since the '70s. Recently though, since Israel and Cyprus signed gas exploration deals, the Turks have been doing everything to harass and sabotage the Cypriot efforts. The aim of course is to pressure its leadership to accept co-exploration, or face permanent partition of the island.

   In the recent election in the so called "Republic of Northern Cyprus", the Turkish Cypriot hardliner-Ersin Tatar, a nationalist who favors stronger ties with Turkey, scored a surprise victory. The ousting of the pro-unification incumbent president Mustafa Akinci, is a clear statement of Turkey's bluff or intentions.

   When the EU accepted the Cypriot Republic as a member, it very well knew what it was getting into. And although many would like to blame the Greek Cypriots for rejecting the disputed Annan Plan, which aimed to unify the country, they ignore the obvious failings of the proposals that the plan included.

   In the plan, Turkey was granted rights to interfere with the treaty between Egypt and the Republic of Cyprus on the Delimitation of the Exclusive Economic Zone. Cyprus' rights to its Continental Shelf in the south would have also been answerable to Turkey, which was granted the right of stationing Turkish troops on the island of Cyprus perpetually, again making full independence impossible.

   The Ethnic groups in Cyprus are Greek 77%, Turkish 18%, other 5% of the population. The Annan plan equated the representation of the two major ethnic groups in the proposed Senate and in the Supreme Court giving 50-50 representation to the two communities. The majority becomes a minority in important decision centres.

   The above are only a few reasons why the Greek Cypriots rejected such humiliating agreement, not to mention that the British bases on the island were never discussed, nor any compensation for property lost to the Turkish settlers. In fact, all of them would be granted citizenship or residence rights leading to citizenship. Those settlers opting to return to Turkey would be compensated by Cyprus and Greek Cypriots. Even though Turkey systematically brought in the settlers to alter the demography of the island, it had no responsibility for their repatriation.

   It becomes obvious that this plan was drafted in order to humiliate the Greek Cypriots, or to make sure they rejected it. Given the fact that if the Cyprus dispute was resolved, it could potentially pave the way for a Turkish entry in the EU, or at least signal the removal of a major obstacle, it is no wonder that such preposterous demands were made in it.

   In other words, the interests of big powers and players in the region, decided the future of the island, its relationship with Turkey, its place in the EU, the Turkish relations with the block and so on. Who is paying the price for vested national interests in the region? Once again, the Greeks and the Cypriots, the EU's periphery and the whole of East Mediterranean and South Balkans.

   With a Turkey so volatile, desperate and angry at Europe's rejection, false promises and delays in what it promised or agreed (we can only speculate what Europe discussed with the Turks over the refugee crisis, the ongoing EU membership bid etc), Greece, Cyprus and the whole region can never find peace and without it, no prosperity or stability. Who will be paying for this in the long term? The European tax payer of course.

   If Greece and Cyprus require constant help with their finances, or "overspend" in buying German, Dutch, French, Italian, British and US weaponry, then no one can expect to see his taxes spent in investing in green industries in the region, as the EU aims for the future. Unless of course these plans are drafted only for the core EU members, not the peripheral ones.

   Europe must come into a decision about Turkey and soon. The more it lingers in order to save and serve its financial interests in the country, the more harm it is done in the region. Either sanction the Turks into conformity, kick them out of NATO, or negotiate their real demands behind their stance; Erdogan must want something promissed badly to repeatedly blackmail the EU. Since Europeans do nothing, this will continue to the detriment of East Mediterranean, Cyprus and Greece.

   Non action is not an option and European leaders know it,yet are afraid of dealing with the aftermath and concequences. Which is of course, another European fiasco in its efforts of a single foreign policy and influence in-nevermind the world, but primarily its own doorstep.

Christos Mouzeviris

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