Greece, Cyprus frown at ‘too many carrots’ in draft EU declaration on Turkey

Greek media reported that both countries consider the text “problematic” as it has significant differences compared to the “carrot-and-stick approach for Turkey” presented by the European Commission earlier this week. [EPA-EFE/OLIVIER HOSLET]

A common EU declaration on Turkey currently under discussion ahead of the EU summit on 25-26 March “does not reflect” the balanced approach of EU top diplomat Josep Borrell recent report on the future of EU-Turkey relations, Athens and Nicosia have said.

Greek media reported that both countries consider the text “problematic” as it has significant differences compared to the “carrot-and-stick approach for Turkey” presented by the European Commission earlier this week.

The draft, seen by Reuters and dated March 22, says EU leaders will “work on a mandate for the modernisation of the customs union”, referring to a 1995 EU-Turkey trade deal that could be expanded to include services, public procurement and farm goods.

The draft also says Turkey deserves more financial support for hosting millions of Syrian refugees and more high-profile diplomatic contacts.

Moreover, if Ankara moves against the bloc’s interests and escalates again, the threat of economic sanctions will remain on the table.

Nicosia says there is no reference at all on the violation of human rights in Turkey while Athens says the wording does not reflect the “balance” of Borrell’s report.

EURACTIV.com has learnt that a number of countries were not happy with the harsh wording of Borrell’s report. Among them are Hungary, Malta and Bulgaria which have reportedly asked to tone down the language.

Bulgarian ambassador to the EU Dimitar Tsantschev told his EU partners at the Foreign Affairs Council on Monday that “it is very important for Bulgaria that the EU-Turkey Joint Statement on Migration be strictly and fully implemented. EU financial assistance for refugees in Turkey needs to continue”.

Big carrot

The EU has set aside for Turkey two tranches of three billion euro each under the EU-Turkey Statement of 2016, and time has come for a third tranche. Bulgaria considers that Turkey keeps its commitments and that the mechanism should be preserved.

The pending issues with Ankara go beyond the EU-Turkey relations. EU leaders have admitted that they are in close coordination with the new US administration to see what next joint steps should be taken.

Turkey’s purchase of Russian S-400 missile system has irritated Washington, but US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Tuesday that despite public differences with Ankara, “Turkey is a long-standing and valued ally”, adding that US, NATO have strong interest in keeping Turkey close.

In Brussels, critics suggest that US President Biden has asked Europe to keep a low profile with Turkey in light of an escalating crisis between the West and Russia. Greece and Cyprus in particular see themselves as victims of such tactics.

Both the US and NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg push the Atlantic Alliance as a platform to resolve the ongoing crisis between Greece and Turkey, especially after the establishment of a “de-confliction” mechanism in the Eastern Mediterranean.

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