Family is usually defined as a group of people who stick together in tough moments. The EU is frequently described as such, especially in times of calm. But the moment we hear the first disturbing noise, windows are closed and ostrichism prevails.
The recent example of Turkey and the ongoing Libyan crisis is a case in point. The top EU diplomat, Josep Borrell, has publicly admitted that EU divisions over the issue had left Russia and Turkey free to step in and dominate the Mediterranean.
At a time when Turkey’s pressure on Greece is mounting daily, Germany keeps selling submarines to Ankara while Spain provides Turkey with the know-how for the construction of war aircraft.
A high-ranking EU diplomat said last week EU family members should improve their communication to avoid future surprises.
Isn’t it ironic, then, to have the EU member states unanimously slamming Turkish aggressiveness in the Eastern Mediterranean and simultaneously providing Ankara with weapons?
The Greek government was jubilant on Tuesday upon receiving a letter from the US secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, who said Washington “will remain committed to supporting Greece’s prosperity, security and democracy”.
The EU has also expressed its solidarity with Greece and Cyprus. But the EU does not have an army, one can argue. And it’s true. The only tool available is the sanctions, whose framework has already been adopted but has not been enforced yet.
But the lack of ‘one voice’ is not limited to the EU-27. There is also the European political parties who compete with each other, but also internally.
The Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis belongs to the European People’s Party (EPP) and the Turkish issue has been his first severe challenge since taking power.
One could reasonably expect that he would have support from the EPP. Instead, he got stabbed twice.
First, by his Bulgarian centre-right counterpart Boyko Borissov. Last month, Borissov publicly asked Greece to deal with Turkey on a bilateral level, without involving the EU. Just yesterday in Davos, he congratulated Turkish Foreign Affairs Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu for the Libya agreement.
The second “surprise” came from Berlin, and Chancellor Angela Merkel, in particular. She did not invite Mitsotakis to the Berlin Conference, providing Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan with ammunition to poke fun at the Greek leader for being isolated by his own family in the Libya talks.
The EPP is still Europe’s biggest political family. But if it loses another prime minister after the Irish elections in February and the inter-party war in Croatia brings down the conservative government, the numbers will no longer look so nice in the EU Council.
One could rightly wonder why extreme-right EPP members – like Viktor Orbán – enjoy a preferential regime in the party while liberal centre-right politicians such as Mitsotakis are cornered. But there may be a logic to it.
It may be a signal that Orbán will ultimately manage to change the EPP, as he has claimed all along, while liberal Mitsotakis could start considering joining Macron’s Renew Europe.
In any event, Macron is the only EU leader who has openly supported Mitsotakis both at NATO and EU level.
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