Warlike tones come from the Turkish government. What Europe can achieve?

This post was published in Heise.de. The point of view expressed in this article is authorial and do not necessarily reflect BM`s editorial stance.


BERLIN, (BM) – Warlike tones come from the Turkish government. If Greece should expand its territorial waters in the Aegean Sea, that would be “a reason for war”, the Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu was quoted at the weekend; Vice President Fuat Oktay also spoke of a “reason for war” (Tagesschau).

President Erdogan followed suit yesterday, Sunday. He accused the governments of Greece and France of “greed” and “incompetence” and threatened with the utmost commitment: “When it comes to fighting, we are ready to be martyrs.” Are those “who rebel against us in the Mediterranean ready to make the same sacrifices”?

“Do the Greek people accept the risk they are in because of their greedy and incompetent leaders?” and “Do the French people know the price they will have to pay because of their greedy and incompetent leaders?” (Mirror).

Is it just rhetoric? In any case, it is a test of strength that the previous solution mechanisms apparently cannot overcome: new diplomatic territory. Neither the EU nor NATO are currently showing a viable concept for dealing with the crisis.

“Blue Homeland”

In the case of Turkey, based on the experiences made in Syria, Iraq and Libya, it cannot be ruled out that the threats and announcements could be followed by military action. The fact that military maneuvers are being held in the Mediterranean – by France, Greece and Cyprus on the one hand and by Turkey, Italy and the US (!) On the other, that aggressive scenes are also taking place in the sky over the Mediterranean – are not relaxing signals, but signs of a trend on militarization in the Mediterranean.

The problem is that it is not just a “gas dispute”, as the confrontation between Turkey, Greece and Cyprus is often referred to, in which France positions itself within the EU and NATO as the strongest adversary of Turkish Mediterranean policy. The Turkish claim goes beyond the dispute over resources. It is embedded in a major nationalist project that claims leadership in the Mediterranean, which is headed the “Blue Homeland” doctrine (more detailed here).

This project, which is part of Erdogan’s neo-Ottoman politics, also includes Libya and even the Sahel zone, which collides with France’s regional power interests. In view of Ankara’s ambitions to revise previously valid contracts, observers from think tanks are drawing on a broad framework: Turkey is pushing into a political space that has opened up due to the decreasing dominance of the superpower USA. The cards are rewritten.

With its drone technology, the use of experienced mercenaries and the readiness to wage wars of aggression in order to assert national interests, Turkey has developed into an intimidating force with which both opponents and partners have difficulties. NATO could be mentioned as an example, but also Russia in Syria.

The EU in a bind

The EU is particularly in a tight spot in the dispute between Greece, France and Turkey, as the refugee deal with Ankara exposes it to a constant threat that Erdogan could reopen the “floodgates“, which he keeps resorting to.

In addition, especially in Germany, there are also economic and trade interests and the very own relationships with the German-Turks. The fact that weapons and technological know-how are exported to Turkey from Germany, for example for the development of drones, adds another dicey aspect and an obstacle to proceeding with greater severity against Ankara.

So far, the EU has threatened – under Germany’s presidency – rather half-heartedly with sanctions (and offers “a few carrots” in customs agreements and refugee aid) against Turkey if it does not give in to the dispute with Greece. Erdogan is unimpressed by the announcement. Apparently, he does not expect the political will in the EU to be strong enough to impose severe sanctions. The EU would have economic means to do this, but would be running a risk that it eschews.

“Greece and Cyprus (…) complained about German” double standards. That Maas and Chancellor Merkel want to show a hard edge against Lukashenko and Tsar Putin, but not against the Turkish sultan Erdogan, they cannot understand. It doesn’t go together either Erdogan is about an aggressive policy against two EU members, which recently has even been associated with barely disguised threats of war. Lukashenko, on the other hand, is about a country that has not (so far) done anything to the EU and is not even trying to get closer The foreign ministers have now threatened Turkey with sanctions to resolve the contradiction. However, Erdogan will not be impressed by the “ultimatum” on September 24th.” Eric Bonse said.

On the other hand, it does not currently look as if the EU would be willing or able to persuade its member states Greece and France to comply with Turkish demands in the dispute over maritime law and territorial claims. According to the motto, give in small means to encourage the next Turkish demand.

As things stand, this means that the dispute over territorial claims, exclusive economic zones and the law of the sea in the Mediterranean will continue. There are also no signals from NATO that open up a horizon for a solution. But maybe the EU Council meeting on 24./25. September a solution.


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