"Turkey is aware of how dependent it is on the EU"
At their meeting on Thursday and Friday, the heads of state and government of the European Union will discuss relations with Turkey. They will also discuss the imposition of sanctions against Ankara. The main reason for this is Turkey's conduct towards Greece and Cyprus.
Turkey continues unabated with its gas and oil explorations in the respective maritime Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZs) claimed by both EU states. The foreign ministers of the European Union had already agreed on a range of sanctions against Turkey in September. Now it is up to the heads of state and government to put these measures into force – or not.
Mr. Seufert, so far decisions on sanctions against Turkey have been postponed at EU summits. What do you expect this time?
Gunter Seufert: The image of Turkey has deteriorated considerably in a number of EU member states that previously had a positive image of Turkey, partly as a result of Turkey's foreign policy. For example, in Spain, Italy and Poland. At the same time, however, Spain and Italy in particular fear that possible sanctions could lead to an impairment of the Turkish economy and thus run counter to their own economic interests.
Turkey was already the subject of discussion among EU foreign ministers at their meeting in Brussels on Monday. After the meeting, EU foreign affairs envoy Josep Borrell said there didn't appear to have been a fundamental change in Turkey's behaviour, and that there was unanimous agreement. According to this stocktaking, sanctions should actually be imposed.
Seufert: That is correct. Turkey has not met any of the conditions that the EU set out at the October 1 summit for moving forward on a positive axis. Ankara has again violated the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) of the Republic of Cyprus and has also created new points of contention. In Cyprus, for example, Turkey suddenly declared the Greek Cypriot coastal village of VA rosha part of the "Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus," which only it recognizes. The Turkish government has also abandoned the internationally recognized framework for a solution to the Cyprus problem – i.e., the creation of a unified state – and is now counting on recognition of the "Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus". By doing so, Ankara has escalated the situation in the eastern Mediterranean.
Turkey has also activated the Russian S-400 missile defence system exactly within the deadline set by the EU, which is not in the EU's interest at all. And finally, in a dispute with French President Emmanuel Macron, it has accused all European countries that have experienced Muslim immigration of Islamophobia and the racist treatment of Muslims. Based on the EU's decision-making, therefore, and looking at how Turkey has behaved, there should be a firm reaction against Ankara. Whether that will happen, however, is another matter.
Turkey under pressure
So far, the German government has prevented sanctions from being imposed on Turkey. Important issues for Germany are the refugee question, security aspects, Ankara's remaining in the Western alliance system and the fight against terrorism. Will the Chancellor be able to maintain this position at the summit?
Seufert: Certainly, it will be more difficult for her. The number of countries that are impatient with Turkey has grown. Together with Greece, France and Austria, the Netherlands, Belgium, the Baltic States as well as Ireland are also voting for a tougher approach. There is also great dissatisfaction with Turkey among German diplomats. Germany went out on a limb with its mediation efforts and its stalling role at the last EU summit. Turkey, however, has not accommodated the Chancellor in any way.
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