It has been five weeks since EU foreign ministers agreed in principle on sanctions following the electoral manipulation in Belarus. The European Union, said Josep Borrell, EU foreign affairs representative, has not accepted the outcome of the controversial Belarusian presidential election. But the community is struggling to put words into action. This is due to a small member state close to Turkey – Cyprus.
On Monday, EU foreign ministers wanted to impose sanctions on those people who have since been identified by the community as responsible for the fraud in the August presidential elections and violence against protesters. Account locks and entry bans are planned for about 40 people. But the project is being blocked by Cyprus. The Mediterranean state will only agree to sanctions against Belarus if, at the same time as the gas dispute with Turkey, further EU sanctions are imposed on Ankara.
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While the EU is under great pressure to act in the face of the ongoing demonstrations in Belarus, relations with Turkey will not be discussed until the end of the week at the upcoming EU summit. According to EU diplomats, Cyprus is pushing for an informal meeting of European foreign ministers in Berlin at the end of August to establish parallel sanctions against Belarus and Turkey.
In the other EU capitals, the connection between Belarus and Turkey is rejected
The link the government in the Cypriot capital of Nicosia is making between the two issues – the gas dispute with Turkey and the brutal actions of the leaders in Minsk – is rejected in all other EU capitals. However, Cyprus has a veto. Sanction decisions must be taken unanimously in the EU. Given the slowness with which the EU is now developing again in the case of Belarus in the field of foreign policy, Commission President von der Leyen called in her State of the EU speech last week for the abolition of the principle of unanimity.
Cypriot President Nikos Anastasiades calls for a crackdown on Turkey Photo: AFP
According to information from EU diplomats, at the meeting of EU foreign ministers tomorrow there will be great pressure on Cyprus to give up the blockade. The government in Nicosia, on the other hand, fears that it will not receive sufficient support from its European partners in the gas dispute with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Ultimately, so the concern in Nicosia, the EU will leave it with empty threats in the current dispute with Erdogan. Cypriot President Nikos Anastasiades is demanding that the community use “all available means” to prevent Turkey from conducting controversial gas drilling in the Eastern Mediterranean.
A month ago, Erdogan ordered the research vessel “Oruc Reis” for gas exploration, accompanied by several naval vessels near the Greek island of Kastellorizo. In the Eastern Mediterranean region, not only Greece but also Cyprus claims the gas reserves. The “Oruc Reis” is now back in the harbor of Antalya.
Erdogan and Mitsotakis are back on the negotiating course
This defused the dispute between the EU and Turkey, which for the time being led to the dispatch of a French warship and two French fighters to the region. Erdogan and Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis are now back on the negotiating course in the gas rights dispute.
But that does not alter the fact that EU sanctions against Turkey are still an option. Cyprus, Greece and France are in favor of strict Community action. On the other hand, Chancellor Angela Merkel (CDU) wants to prevent an escalation in relations with Turkey at least before the EU summit at the end of this week.
Merkel is concerned about enforcing the EU refugee agreement
The real reason for the mediation efforts of the federal government, which currently holds the presidency of the EU Council, lies in refugee policy. Merkel, who along with Erdogan was one of the main creators of the 2016 EU refugee agreement, naturally wants to prevent a renewed increase in the number of refugees. That Erdogan is not actually afraid of using refugees for political power was demonstrated last March. At that point, the Turkish president reopened the border with Greece to migrants, disregarding the refugee agreement.