Turkey is embarking on a major naval construction programme to restore the regional maritime influence it lost after the Ottoman Empire’s collapse. However, the policy is already generating regional tensions, particularly with its neighbours Greece and Cyprus. Last week, Greece announced a significant weapons purchase as Turkish President Recep Erdogan continued with the offensive.
Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said the new arms included 18 French Rafale fighter jets, four frigates and four navy helicopters. The country also said it plans to increase the size of its armed forces by 15,000 soldiers over the next five years.
The European Union, of which Greece is a member, simply called for dialogue with Turkey – an approach which has been heavily criticised by former Greek ambassador Leonidas Chrysanthopoulos.
Mr Chrysanthopoulos argued that the bloc’s attitude towards Turkey is not only permitting violations of the territorial integrity of two of its member states but could also spark a war in Europe.
He recently explained in a report for the Campaign for an Independent Britain: “At the informal meeting of EU Foreign Ministers that took place in Berlin on August 27-28, it was decided to submit proposals for sanctions against Turkey to be discussed at the European Council of September 24-25, if there is no progress by then.
“According to remarks made by the High Representative Joseph Borrell, it was decided ‘to add individuals suggested by Cyprus to the list of the existing regime for illegal drillings in the Eastern Mediterranean with a view to a rapid adoption.’
“When asked to clarify what other sanctions were being discussed, Mr Borrell reportedly gave a feeble response.”
Mr Borrell was quoted as saying: “First you know, that we are listing persons. We can move to list assets-ships.
“We can move to sanction the participation in the activities that we consider illegal, meaning everything related to the work on this kind of activities, meaning prohibiting the use of European ports, European capacities, technology and supplies. We can also look at the finance needed for this kind of illegal activity. Everything related to the problem itself. And we can go to measures related to sectoral activities, in the fields in which the Turkish economy is more interrelated with the European economy. This is what we can do. But in general terms, the important thing is to focus on everything related to the activities that we consider illegal. For the time being we list only the persons.”
Mr Chrysanthopoulos continued: “This is the reply of the EU to a third country that is violating the territorial integrity of two EU member states!
“Greece must insist on a robust EU response.
“Borrell’s feeble reply has given Turkey the courage to continue its illegal activities on the continental shelves of two member states.
“The Turkish Foreign Minister announced on August 29 that the Turkish survey vessel Oruc Reis will continue its exploratory activities for another three months, thus totally ignoring the EU.
“Greece should ask for an extraordinary meeting of the EU Council of Ministers of Foreign Affairs for the immediate adoption of effective sanctions against Turkey.”
These sanctions should include those mentioned by Mr Borrell, but according to Mr Chrysanthopoulos, Greece and Cyprus should also insist on the removal of the status of a candidate country from Turkey, suspension of the customs union with Turkey, and prohibition of exports or imports of arms of any kind with Turkey.
The former ambassador added: “We all know that the EU will not voluntarily adopt strong sanctions against Turkey.
“This is why, if the Greek Government wants to manage the issue within the EU framework, it should raise the alarm that the incapability of the EU to protect the territorial integrity of its members against a third country could lead to its dissolution.
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“The inability of the EU to adopt effective sanctions against Turkey will inevitably start discussions in Greece about a possible Grexit.”
Regarding the possibility of a war in Europe, Mr Chrysanthopoulos said: “Erdogan has trapped himself badly: the Turkish economy continues to collapse, and the only solution for him is war against Greece. And he does not hide it. He cannot go back without losing face.
“Greece and Cyprus must be prepared to face Turkey alone.
“While we hope that our fellow EU member states will recover their principles and help us to effectively face the provocations of Turkey, it is clear that we cannot count on this.”