Turkey comes away with a black eye on the EU summit. The threat of severe sanctions is maintained. The date for the next pivotal meeting has been set.

The EU will impose new sanctions on Turkey. The reason for this is the unauthorized Turkish gas exploration for Cyprus, according to a decision by the heads of state or government at the EU summit in Brussels.

The sanctions can affect individuals as well as companies involved in exploratory drilling that is considered illegal. They must ultimately be decided by the Council of Ministers and include entry bans and property freezes.

For now, however, there are no sanctions against entire branches of the economy or an EU arms embargo. Appropriate demands due to the continuing confrontational policy of the Ankara government did not find the necessary unanimous support.

Further options for action should be worked out in March

According to Friday night’s decision, more drastic measures could be taken at the next regular EU summit on March 25 and 26 next year. Until then, the European Commission and the Foreign Service will have to work out further options for measures. They are also expected to present a report on the situation in the Eastern Mediterranean and political and economic relations between the EU and Turkey.

Turkey has been criticized mainly for its controversial gas exploration in sea areas off Cyprus and near Greek islands. Provocations in the conflict over the partition of Cyprus and violations of the UN arms embargo against Libya are also considered unacceptable. Turkey rejects the allegations.

As a result of gas exploration for Cyprus, the EU had already imposed entry bans and asset freezes on two executives from Turkish energy company TPAO in February. It was already decided in 2019 to limit the allocation of EU funds and to suspend negotiations on an air transport agreement. However, none of these measures has so far had any visible effect.

In addition to the new sanctions and the timetable for possible further action, the Heads of State or Government also agreed on a renewed offer of dialogue to the Ankara government. Accordingly, the offer of “a positive EU-Turkey agenda” remains on the table – the prerequisite is that Turkey is willing to resolve “differences in dialogue and in accordance with international law”.

According to the summit resolution, such a positive agenda could include business and trade and further cooperation on migration issues. According to the text, the EU will remain ready to provide financial support to Syrian refugees and host communities in Turkey.

Stoltenberg warned of a break with Turkey

The agreement on the new sanctions was preceded by weeks of discussion between the EU countries. Countries such as France, Greece and Cyprus, with painful EU sanctions up to and including suspension of the customs union, are in fact pushing on the hardest possible course. Germany, among others, is convinced that Turkey, for example, is needed as a partner in the fight against illegal migration and must not be alienated.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg sees the situation in the same way as the German government. Shortly before the summit, he warned the EU against a break with ally Turkey. There are differences with Turkey that need to be addressed, Stoltenberg said. At the same time, however, one must recognize the importance of Turkey as part of NATO and also as part of the “Western family”. The country is an important ally in the fight against the terrorist militia “Islamic State” (IS). In addition, Turkey is home to the most refugees of all NATO allies, Stoltenberg said.

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