EU Council on enlargement warns Turkey to respect sovereignty of Cyprus, Greece

European Union member-states are calling on the European Commission to propose appropriate measures against Turkey because of the continuing drilling in the Cyprus Republic’s Exclusive Economic Zone, Commissioner for Enlargement Negotiations Johannes Hahn said on Tuesday during a press conference following a session of the Council of the EU.

At the meeting on progress in enlargement of the EU on Tuesday, the Council also reiterated that it has “frozen” talks with Turkey on accession and on the customs union with it.

“The Council expresses serious concerns over Turkey’s current illegal drilling activities in the Eastern Mediterranean and deplores that Turkey has not yet responded to the European Union’s repeated calls to cease such activities,” the Council said in a statement on the proceedings. It “underlines the serious immediate negative impact that such illegal actions have across the range of EU-Turkey relations,” it said, and “calls on Turkey to show restraint, respect the sovereign rights of Cyprus, and refrain from any such actions.”

It added, “The EU will closely monitor developments and stands ready to respond appropriately and in full solidarity with Cyprus. The Council invites the Commission and the European External Action Service to submit options for appropriate measures without delay.”

In its conclusion on enlargement, the Council said that “Turkey continues to move further away from the European Union. Recalling its conclusions of 26 June 2018, the Council notes that Turkey’s accession negotiations have therefore effectively come to a standstill and no further chapters can be considered for opening or closing and no further work towards the modernisation of the EU-Turkey Customs Union is foreseen.”

Furthermore, it said, “Turkey must avoid threats and actions that damage good neighbourly relations, normalise its relations with the Republic of Cyprus and respect the sovereignty of all EU Member States over their territorial sea and airspace as well as all their sovereign rights, including inter alia the right to explore and exploit natural resources, in accordance with EU and international law, including UNCLOS.”

Also reviewed were the cases of Albania and North Macedonia, with the Council deciding to postpone the opening of accession talks following requests by member-states for more time because of domestic issues.

The Council recognised the Prespes Agreement as “historic and unprecedented” and the progress both Albania and North Macedonia had made, and said for both that “it takes good note of the Commission’s recommendation to open accession negotiations.” It added in each case that “the Council will revert to the issue with a view to reaching a clear and substantive decision as soon as possible and no later than October 2019.”

Greek diplomatic sources, commenting on the decisions, said “it is the first time the European Union takes action against Turkey for violating international law, and specifically for its actions in the Cyprus EEZ.”