Tag Archives: Greece

EU-Turkey Mediterranean de-escalation

The recent withdrawal of the research vessel Oruç Reis is an important step paving the way for a meaningful dialogue between Greece and Turkey. The EU also calls for a similar decisions as concerns Cyprus. Turkey’s announcement on Tuesday of the extension of the Navtex for the Yavuz drilling vessel will fuel further tensions and insecurity in the Eastern Mediterranean at a moment when there is an opportunity to pursue immediate de-escalation, and resume dialogue and negotiations, which is the only path towards lasting solutions” reads the European External Action service Spokesperson Statement on the exploration activities in Eastern Mediterranean.

Meanwhile Turkey’s Foreign Minister Cavusoglu said seismic vessel Oruc Reis was pulled back for its periodical maintenance, howeveer Greece can turn this into an opportunity for talks in eastern Mediterranean row.

Neighbours in Mediterranean, both NATO allies, Turkey and Greece have overlapping claims to continental shelves and rights to extract potential energy resources in the eastern Mediterranean. Tensions flared last month after Ankara sent Oruc Reis to map out possible oil and gas drilling prospects in waters claimed by Greece, Cyprus and Turkey.

Turkey’s navy had issued an advisory earlier this month saying the vessel would continue operations in the area until September 12. Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu had confirmed that it would continue exploratory operations for longer but no extension to the advisory was issued as of noon.

Michel calls for conference on East Mediterranean

The EU continues relentless efforts to de-escalate tensions in the Eastern Mediterranean between Turkey and Greece over gas and oil exploration. On Sunday, September 7, in the afternoon, the President of the European Council Charles Michel had a telephone conversation with the President of Turkey Recep Tayyip Erdogan over the mounting tensions in the region.

According to an EU official, Michel stressed the importance of de-escalation the conflict, and called on Turkey to refrain from activities that fuel the tensions. He pointed out that the EU is in full solidarity with Greece and Cyprus, adding that the EU wishes to have a constructive relationship with Turkey.

Further, EU Council President called September European Council meeting, which will discuss the situation in the Mediterranean and the whole scope of EU’s relations with Turkey. In that respect all measures, called “sticks and carrots” will be considered.

Michel has also called for multilateral conference on the Eastern Mediterranean in a view to find peaceful and negotiated solutions, with a clear goal to listen and call for “dialogue as the only way to resolve current disputes”. Michel will remain in contact with all parties.
Turkey and Greece, both NATO members, have been embroiled in an increasingly belligerent dispute over gas and oil in the region since Turkey deployed an exploration vessel last month.

They will understand that Turkey has the political, economic and military strength to tear up immoral maps and documents,” Erdogan said in a televised speech, referring to contested areas claimed by Greece and Cyprus as their exclusive economic zones.

The EU strategy to establish dialogue between opponent so far remains unchanged, and is perceived with tenacity from the beginning of the argument between Greece, Cyprus, and the EU candidate country – Turkey.

EU considers sanctions against Turkey

The EU top diplomat Josep Borrell said the Foreign ministers had a «good discussion» on the issues of the Eastern Mediterranean and Turkey, underlining the the diplomacy is determined in defending European Union’s interests and reiterates solidarity with Greece and Cyprus. Borrel pointed at refrain from unilateral action by Turkey as a basic element to allow the dialogue to advance.

«What we want is to find paths towards a healthier relationship. It is in the mutual interest of both the European Union and Turkey» Borrell said at concluding press-conferece after two day meeting in Gymnich format, which took place in Berlin on August 27-28.

“For this reason, we must walk a fine line between preserving a true space for dialogue and, at the same time, showing collective strength in the defence of our common interests.

“We want to give a serious chance to dialogue, and I very much appreciate and thank the efforts deployed by Germany in this attempt to look for solutions through dialogue between Turkey and Greece and Cyprus.

“As High Representative, I will try to create space for negotiations on all issues of our complex and difficult relations with Turkey.

“It is equally clear that there is a growing frustration in the face of Turkish behaviour. On that, the Council expressed a political consensus to ask the relevant Council Working Groups to speed up their work in order to add individuals suggested by Cyprus to the list of the existing regime for illegal drillings in the Eastern Mediterranean, with a view to a rapid adoption.

“Finally, we also agreed that in the absence of progress in engaging with Turkey, we could develop a list of further restrictive measures that could be discussed at the European Council on 24-25 September”.

Mavrides MEP criticises EU-Turkey ‘engagment’ policy

After MEP Costas MAVRIDES speech criticizing the EU policy towards Turkey Anna van Densky interviewed him on perspectives of the Turkey membership in the EU, candidate country status, mounting tensions around drilling for oil and gas in Cypriot waters, breaches of human rights, and possible sanctions.

In the interview Mr. MAVRIDES underlined that regarding Turkish action in the Mediterranean it was announced that from the beginning of September they will start exploration from the ships, going beyond the Greek Islands Crete, Kasos, Karpathos, but also the first time Greece made it clear that this will not be accepted. Otherwise, we have some clear indications of de-escalation, or we are at brink of a conflict, Mr.Mavrides said.

The EU demands the respect of the international and European law, but the EU top diplomat Mr.Borrell talks about “dialog”, “breaching of our differences”, or our disputes regarding energy, reminding a tragic lesson of history, the appeasement policy which was used in 1937 to 1940 against Nazi Germany, when it was officially declared an international policy that giving concessions to Nazi will save world from total war, and the humanity paid highest price for this mistake, MEP continued.

Today the EU diplomacy does not call it “appeasement” policy, but “engagement” policy, but it follows the same steps, Mr.Mavrides pointed out. Unless the EU will form the European geopolitical strategy specifically oriented towards common defense, especially vis-à-vis Turkey, the worst scenario may repeat itself. And then Europeans will pay much heavier price, and as the supporters of the appeasement policy were condemned by history, the similar way some of nowadays politicians will be ashamed of what they say today, Mr.Mavrides warns. “The sooner we face up to the reality and defend our values as European Union having common defense, common sanctions, arms embargo, the sooner we do it, better we help people in Turkey and better we help ourselves” – Mr.Mavrides concluded. MEP MAVRIDES Chairs the Political Committee of the European Parliament (2019 – 2024) for the Mediterranean, he is member Group of the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats in Europarl and Democratic party of Cyprus.

Socialist MEPs block Resolution on Turkey

The European Peopole’s Party (EPP) has issued a statement following the Left Groups S&D and GUE block of the Resolution from European Parliament as tensions continue to increase between the European Unions and Turkey.

On the initiative of the EPP Group, the European Parliament will debate the continued and repeated aggression of Turkey against Greece and Cyprus next week. In light of the situation, Chairman of the EPP Group, Manfred Weber MEP, called for an urgent debate with High Representative Josep Borrell.

“Turkey is unilaterally escalating conflicts with Europe and the situation is getting worse. Turkish security forces attack the Greek border on a regular basis and the drilling attempts in the waters of Cyprus are intensifying continuously. The EU cannot leave these aggressions unanswered.”

Greece has seen repeated attempts by groups of people trying to cross the border illegally, with the help of the Turkish security forces. The Head of the Greek Delegation of the EPP Group, Vangelis Meimarakis MEP, stated: “President Erdogan is provoking another refugee crisis for his own benefit on the back of desperate people. Turkey’s actions undermine the refugee agreement and are a threat to stability in Europe. The European Parliament should send a clear signal to Turkey that it has gone too far and that it must stop challenging the EU.”

Turkey’s illegal drilling activities in the Exclusive Economic Zone of Cyprus have also been escalating recently. “We expect the European Union to show solidarity in practice and to vigorously defend Cyprus and Greece against Turkish aggression. If the current measures do not stop Turkey’s illegal activities, it is clear we need to further increase the pressure”, said the Head of the Cypriot Delegation of the EPP Group, Lefteris Christoforou MEP.

The EPP Group called for a strong statement from the European Parliament, a debate and a Resolution, to denounce Turkey’s actions. However, during the discussions with the other political Groups, the Socialists (S&D) and the Communists (GUE) blocked a Resolution on the matter.

“In light of the facts on the ground, it is incomprehensible that the Left wing parties reject a strong and clear signal from the European Parliament”, the MEPs noted.

Image: illustration, European Parliament hearing, Brussels

COVID19: Europe gradually lifts restrictions

A number of European countries are further lifting their restrictions on May 25, Monday:

Gyms and swimming pools reopen in Italy, except in the hardest-hit region of Lombardy. The country has the third-highest recorded death toll from the virus worldwide.

Spain’s two biggest cities, Madrid and Barcelona, both move into phase one of the country’s 3-phase lockdown lifting plan. People can now gather in small groups, while bars and restaurants can serve customers outside. Other parts of the country move to phase two – meaning beaches, businesses and public areas can open more extensively.

Ferry services in Greece resume to all islands and ports, as the government hopes to boost domestic tourism. Cafes and restaurants are also reopening in the country from Monday.

Bars repent in the Czech Republic – the country with the highest per capita beer consumption in the world – as the country enters its final lockdown easing stage.

As well as restaurants, cafes and pubs, the doors are also reopening at primary schools, zoos and castles.

Gentiloni: EU faces unprecedented shock

“..Indeed, we are facing a shock without precedent since the Great Depression. Its economic and social consequences pose policy challenges unlike any we have seen in our lifetimes.
The inflation rate is further evidence of this. Data released this morning shows the inflation rate at just 0.3%. In April last year, it was 1.7%.
This is the first time that I present our country-specific recommendations, but it is in fact the tenth set of recommendations that the Commission has presented” Commissioner Paolo Gentiloni said, addressing Brussels press corps on May 20

“The first time was in 2011, when Europe was in in the depths of a very different crisis – in the aftermath of the Great Recession – to the one we face today.
And because, as they say, this time it’s different, so are the recommendations we present today. They are different. They come one week before the recovery plan and these are strictly linked steps.

Our recommendations present, first and foremost, the immediate challenges we are confronted with as a direct result of the pandemic: strengthening our healthcare systems; supporting our workers; and saving our companies.

At the same time, the sustainability and competitiveness challenges we faced before the crisis have not gone away.
Our climate is still suffering, our environment is still hurting. People in cities around the world have experienced clear skies and clean air, in many cases for the first time in their lives – but we know that this is just a pleasant side-effect of a dreadful, yet temporary situation.
If millions of people have been able to carry on working while locked down, including the staff of the Commission, it is a reminder of the huge task Europe faces to be competitive in the digital age.

So as we look to the future, our investment and reform objectives must remain focused on making a success of the green and digital transitions, as well as on social sustainability. I think it is very important that we are speaking today after having adopted the SURE instrument. The Sustainable Development Goals of the United Nations are and must remain our compass.

Let me now make four specific points.
First, in terms of fiscal policy, our message is crystal clear: there needs to be a supportive fiscal stance in all Member States and we recommend that all Member States “take all necessary measures to effectively address the pandemic, sustain the economy and support the ensuing recovery”.
When it comes to the question of excessive deficit procedures, our conclusion – which is that “at this juncture a decision on whether to place Member States under EDP should not be taken” – is fully coherent with the decision taken two months ago to activate the general escape clause.

Finally, we underline that public expenditure and investment are important to support the green and digital transition. Once fiscal policy normalises, it will be vital to avoid making the mistakes of the past: in the fiscal consolidation of ten years ago, investment was the first victim. To repeat this approach would be to sacrifice our long-term priorities.

Second, the fight against Aggressive Tax Planning again features in our recommendations and I must say this is an even clearer priority this in the past. All Member States, especially in the recovery situation, must be able to rely on their fair share of tax revenues to implement the fiscal support needed to get through this crisis.

Third, our European Union is also a Union in which the rule of law is of paramount importance. Also on economic grounds. When the rule of law is questioned, it impacts on the business environment and investment climate. Our recommendations this year also clearly highlight this issue.

We have also adopted today the latest enhanced surveillance report for Greece.

The report concludes that, considering the extraordinary circumstances posed by the coronavirus pandemic, the country has taken the necessary actions to deliver on its specific reform commitments.
I expect this report to pave the way for a positive decision by the Eurogroup on the next tranche of debt relief measures worth €748 million.

We also adopted streamlined post-programme reports for Spain and Cyprus.
In conclusion, before passing the floor to Nicolas. I have mentioned the Great Depression and the Great Recession. We must ensure that this crisis will not be remembered as the Great Fragmentation, in which a symmetric shock leads to asymmetric outcomes for countries, sectors, regions, individuals and generations.
This is why we need to help individuals and companies absorb the shock. We need to repair the shortfall in investment and equity. And we need to transform our economies, with a new growth model embracing the green and digital transition.

In a nutshell, we need a well-funded recovery plan. We will present it next week”.

COVID19: Luxembourg hosts migrant minors

A group of unaccompanied refugee children was relocated from Greek islands to Luxembourg, the European Commission said.

Twelve children between the ages of 11 and 15 were taken from Lesvos, Samos and Chios to Luxemburg, and 50 more will be transferred to Germany this coming weekend.

Greece says there are 42,000 asylum-seekers on its islands, of which 1,500 are children and minors.

To ease pressure on Greek authorities, the European Commission in early Mach opened a relocation program for minors who had been stranded in camps on the islands.

Ten EU members, and Switzerland, responded to the Commission’s call.

The eleven countries pledged to relocate 1,600 asylum seekers, including unaccompanied minors and families in a fragile situation.

The outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic temporarily halted the program, but Luxemburg gave the green light last week after Foreign Minister Jean Asselborn and Greek Minister of Migration Policy Giorgos Koumoutsakos had a exchange of opinion via telephone.

The decision was intended to support Greek authorities “facing in particular the risk of the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic in overcrowded refugee camps,” the government of Luxembourg explained in a statement April 15.

In times where coronavirus is taking its toll on everyday life, it is commendable to see Member States honoring their commitments and working together to help vulnerable migrants on the Greek islands,” EU Commissioner for Promoting our European way of life Commissioner Margaritis Schinas said as 12 children arrived in Luxemburg.

Greece imposed a curfew on migrants living in Lesvos’ Moria refugee camp in March.

The Ritsona refugee camp near Athens was placed under lockdown two weeks ago after 20 cases of coronavirus infection were established.

Human Rights Watch launched a campaign April 14 to secure the release of hundreds of unaccompanied children seeking asylum in Greece.

According to the #FreeTheKids campaign, at least 331 children are under police custody waiting for transfer to a shelter.

Greek authorities call the measures protective custody.

Germany willing to shelter children

Government is seeking a “coalition of the willing” to shelter migrant children across Europe. The EU is searching for way to avoid the second wave of the 2015 refugee crisis while thousands of migrants gather at Greece’s border. (Image: social media).

Germany is prepared to take in “an appropriate share” of the neediest refugee children hosted in overcrowded Greek migrant camps, Berlin officials said on March 9.
The official underlined that they are prepared to take children together with “a coalition of the willing” along with the other EU countries.

The announcement from the government came after Chancellor Angela Merkel met with members of her coalition government to discuss the humanitarian crisis in Greece including already existing situation in the migrants camps.

At present the crowds of migrants have been gathering along the Greece-Turkey border following President Recep Tayyip Erdogan announcement Turkey borders were open to refugees seeking to cross into Greece.

German plan is set to help between 1,000 – 1,500 children identified as being particularly in need. This means either unaccompanied children under the age of 14 or children in need of urgent medical assistance. However no clarifications of methods of establishing real age of children were presented publicly. So far in absence of documents humanitarian organisations register age of migrants on bona fide basis without any further verifications. This practice has opened a broad gate of abuses, when young men of 25 years, and older registered as minors.

The Europeans discovered gross abuses in hosting refugee system when a Somalianchild refugee” stabbed a Swedish social worker to death. In the cause of prosecution the assailant has been identified to be at least three years older than the declared age of 15.

Alexandra Mezher, 22, was killed (25.01.2016) after she tried to break up a knife fight at an child migrant centre where she worked in Gothenburg, Sweden.
Educated to care for children Mezher herself had expressed concerns to her family about being the guardian for “big powerful guys aged up to 24“.

EU rejects Turkey migratory pressure

The Foreign Affairs Council adopted a statement on the crisis in Idlib and the situation at the EU external borders with Turkey. (Image: illustration).

In its statement, the Council acknowledges the increased migratory burden and risks Turkey is facing on its territory and the substantial efforts it has made in hosting 3,7 million migrants and refugees. The Council also strongly rejects Turkey’s use of migratory pressure for political purposes and restates that the EU and its member states remain determined to effectively protect EU’s external borders, in accordance with EU and international law.

In this context the Council reiterates the EU’s full solidarity with Greece, which faces an unprecedented situation, as well as with Bulgaria, Cyprus and other member states in their efforts to manage the EU’s external borders.

On Idlib, the Council notes that the recent and continuing offensive by the Syrian regime and its backers, including Russia, is creating untold human suffering and has provoked the worst humanitarian crisis since the beginning of the Syrian conflict.

The Council therefore calls for an urgent de-escalation of the conflict in Syria in order to avert a slide into international military confrontation, and prevent further suffering.

The Council notes the outcome of the Russia-Turkey meeting yesterday in Moscow and reiterates, in the strongest possible terms, its call on all parties to keep in place an immediate and a sustainable ceasefire, to guarantee the protection of civilians on the ground and from the air and to enable the unhindered delivery of humanitarian assistance by the international community.

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