The European Council, bringing together the representatives of all EU governments, took an authoritative decision on EU-Turkey relations during its meeting on July 15. The EU representatives took a harsh stance and aggressive tone in reprimanding Turkey for drilling in the Eastern Mediterranean. The text reads explicitly: "... the council deplores that, despite the European Union's repeated calls to cease its illegal activities in the Eastern Mediterranean, Turkey continued its drilling operations west of Cyprus and launched a second drilling operation northeast of Cyprus within Cypriot territorial waters. The council reiterates the serious immediate negative impact that such illegal actions have across the range of EU-Turkey relations. The council calls again on Turkey to refrain from such actions, act in a spirit of good neighborliness and respect the sovereignty and sovereign rights of Cyprus in accordance with international law."
This is hardly a surprise. The European Commission had made public a draft declaration before the council meeting, which was exactly in the same vein, with the same wording. The final declaration refers to the previous declarations of the council, which were extremely harsh as well, on Turkey's drilling activities in the Mediterranean.
This time, an initial number of penalties will be implemented. The council has decided "to suspend negotiations on the Comprehensive Air Transport Agreement and agrees not to hold the Association Council and further meetings of the EU-Turkey high-level dialogues for the time being. The council endorses the commission's proposal to reduce the pre-accession assistance to Turkey for 2020 and invites the European Investment Bank to review its lending activities in Turkey, notably with regard to sovereign-backed lending."
This is a first barrage of fire, made up of important sanctions. For anyone proficient in Turkey-EU relations, it is almost customary to note that damaged relations take a long time to heal. On top of that, the EU will implement further sanctions if Turkey persists in its drilling activities. This does not bode well for the future.
Turkish diplomacy must be revised in that sense. Very briefly, Turkey intervened in 1974 to stop the massacre of Turkish Cypriots by the Greek Cypriot majority. Greek Cypriots never accepted the "power-sharing" constitution of an independent Cyprus and sabotaged state institutions almost immediately. For those who do not accept this evaluation of the facts, it is easy to go back to the history books and see what really happened between 1963 and 1974.
Starting in 1974 and especially after 1983, with the proclamation of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC), not recognized by the international community, Turkish diplomacy has not been very dexterous to say the least. Today, Turkey is squeezed between the EU, of which Greek Cyprus is a full member, and the Russian Federation, whose close relations with Southern Cyprus do not have to be proven.
Turkish Cypriots accepted a unification plan offered by former U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, but Greek Cypriots rejected it. As a reward, a divided Cyprus represented only by the Greek side has been accepted as a member of the EU. The final report written by Kofi Annan, extremely critical of the Greek Cypriot side, was presented to the U.N. Security Council and was vetoed by the Russian Federation; it has never been brought to the agenda.
Turkey is in a stalemate concerning its external relations. We are heading toward a major diplomatic situation with the U.S. Congress over the purchase of the S-400 air defense system. In that sense, the versatility and unpredictability of the U.S. administration does not help either.
Having helped tens of thousands of people leave Libya unharmed when the civil war started, having helped 4 million Syrians escape massacre and having stopped an ethnic cleansing in Cyprus in 1974 do not count. Having been a very loyal ally in NATO and having served as a Western military outpost facing the USSR in the Cold War does not count.
A simple perusal of international mass media, with very few exceptions, shows Turkey to be a rogue state, far from any democratic function. Organizing democratic, pluralistic and transparent elections do not count much either. During the global transitional period we are in, where traditional reference points have disappeared or do not work anymore, Turkey is not in an enviable situation. The sabotage of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs by the Gülenist Terror Group (FETÖ) has been one of the reasons for such a performance, albeit not the only one. It is high time to conduct a deeper analysis of the situation and opt for better strategies and solutions.