Tag Archives: Mediterranean

Cyprus: Famagusta in MEPs focus

Brussels 07.10.2020 “…I share the concerns of the Honorable Member who took the floor a moment ago. For sure this issue of Famagusta was taken into consideration at the European Council as well” – Josep Borrell, the head of the EU diplomacy said, while addressing the Members of the European Parliament.

” The opening of this area, which is a closed area according to the ceasefire agreements under the auspices of the United Nations is a serious violation of this agreement and yesterday we issued an statement and today the 27 [EU Member States] will issue another one asking Turkey to stop doing this activity. You know that the European Council issued a statement on the situation in the Eastern Mediterranean. For sure this is not going to help. On the contrary, it is going to increase tensions and to make it more difficult to reach an agreement on an especially difficult situation for all of us on the Eastern Mediterranean”.

The Turkish Cypriot authorities announced on October 6 they would open the seafront to the public on , sparking protests by the Cyprus government which has taken the issue to the UN Security Council.

European Commission spokesperson said the EU leaders will assess Turkey’s actions on Varosha (Famagusta) and determine further action as part of the dual approach decided in the European Council on October 1-2.

“We are watching the facts and we are stating what we think it is going on,” he said, adding that the EU’s position was very clear, both in his previous statements and in the European Council conclusions.I

Image below: Famagusta, social media.

#EUCO Leaders Summit in Brussels

Brussels 1.10.2020 The Special European Council (#EUCO) takes place in an effort to continue a strategic discussion on Turkey. During the EU leaders’ video conference of 19 August 2020, the situation in the Eastern Mediterranean and relations with Turkey were raised by some member states. The leaders expressed their concern about the growing tensions and stressed the urgent need to de-escalate. The members of the European Council expressed their full solidarity with Greece and Cyprus and recalled and reaffirmed previous conclusions on the illegal drilling activities.

“We agreed to come back to these issues during our meeting in September. All options will be on the table” Charles Michel, the president of the EU Council said.

On 15 and 16 September president Michel travelled to Greece, Cyprus and Malta as part of the preparations for the summit discussions. He also had several phone calls with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

The EU leaders meet in Brussels to discuss foreign affairs, mainly the relations with Turkey, which a candidate country, and the situation in the Eastern Mediterranean. The leaders are also expected to address relations with China, the situation in Belarus and the poisoning of Alexei Navalny. The single market, industrial policy and digital transformation are also on the agenda.

Michel regrets EU consensus method

In his speech “European strategic autonomy is the goal of our generation” at the Bruegel think tank president of the European Council Charles Michel addressed problems of global instability, and pointed at the need to establish the EU autonomy. He also has drawn attention to a number of problems in the EU foreign policy, namely the challenges imposed by China and Russia, “unpredictability” of Mediterranean neighbourhood, and post-Brexit trade negotiations. The president also regretted the method of unanimity in the EU foreign policy decision-making process, which slows it down, and “even some times prevents the decisions”.
Michel has underlined the the EU defence should develop in strong partnership with NATO, and “deployed within” North Atlantic Alliance.

“…Because the globalised world has changed a lot since the end of the Cold War. And because an arc of instability has developed around us.

“In the East, the natural and harmless extension of the European democratic space was brutally stopped by Russia in Ukraine. Russia saw a major geopolitical danger there. This cost Ukraine part of its territory, and a war in the East which permanently destabilises the country. Although the context is different, the events in Belarus once again highlight the challenge at Europe’s eastern borders.

“In the Eastern Mediterranean, we face tensions and unpredictability. Libya and Syria are hotbeds of insecurity and instability. There is pressure on the sovereignty of Greece and Cyprus. Our relationship with Turkey is under strain. This is why the next European summit will be devoted to the adoption of a European strategic position in connection with this region. I proposed the organisation of a multilateral conference on the Eastern Mediterranean, where maritime de-limitations, energy, security, migration, etc. would be discussed.

“In the South: Africa. And I feel, at the level of Europe and its leaders, how much the outlook on Africa is changing. Its energy, its vitality, open the way to an unprecedented alliance. It only depends on us, African and European leaders.

“In the West, Brexit. In the aftermath of the referendum, the result shook up the European Union. This choice of national sovereignty was felt as a failure of European construction.

“Today what is it? It is the United Kingdom that faces our quiet strength. The truth is, the British face a dilemma. What model of society do they want? Do they prefer to maintain high quality standards (health, food, environmental, etc.)? Or, on the contrary, do they want lower standards, subject their breeders and their businesses to unfair and unjust competition from other regions of the world? It is the answer to this question that will determine the level of access to our internal market”

President Michel has also regarded the principle of unanimity in the EU foreign policy, “regularly debated”:

“…Unanimity is required in matters of foreign policy. This question of unanimity is, as we know, regularly debated. And I have a qualified opinion in this regard. Of course, the unanimity requirement slows down and sometimes even prevents the decision. But this requirement leads to constant efforts to weld the Member States together. And this European unity is also our strength. Unanimity promotes the lasting adhesion of the 27 countries to the strategy deliberated together. So I ask myself: isn’t renouncing unanimity a false good idea? Are there not other more relevant reforms to act more quickly at the international level, without losing the added value of our unanimity?

“My modest experience is as follows. Very often, in recent months, I have observed that apparently important differences between the Member States were quickly blurred thanks to the substantive debate. So it was with China. The political preparations allowed us in a few months to define a common position which is now shared by all. The same will be true for the eastern Mediterranean and even Belarus. I am optimistic that there too we will express common positions which will draw their strength from our unity. The major decisions on the budget and the stimulus fund further illustrate this certainty: political confrontation, the exchange of arguments on the merits, are an essential step in the process of democratic deliberation. And they found the legitimacy of the decision.

“…Defense is not a European competence like any other. And I know the different national sensibilities. In my eyes, deepening the common defence is a necessity and is more common sense than an ideological obsession. This project must be deployed within NATO. This is the meaning of the strategic partnership between the EU and NATO. The permanent structured cooperation and the European Defense Fund, which we have just endowed with 7 billion euro, are fully in line with this ambition. And I greet Jean-Claude Juncker and Federica Mogherini, whose strategic impetus in this area has not yet been fully appreciated”.

Cyprus blocks EU anti-Lukashenko sanctions

Cyprus vetoed attempts by the EU member-states to impose sanctions against some 40 Belarusian officials, including incumbent President Alexander Lukashenko.

The measures were being considered in response to the sham election that saw Lukashenko elected to a sixth term in office, and the Minsk government’s tough response to protesters who dispute the result.

Cyprus has demanded the sanctions against President Recep Tayip Erdogan to be applied first, due to a dispute over gas drilling in the eastern Mediterranean.

The chief of the EU diplomacy Josep Borrell vowed during the press-conference following the foreign affairs Council to reach unanimity by the next meeting. He added, that it is also his personal commitment.

Latvian Foreign Minister Edgars Rinkevics condemned the actions by Cyprus in a tweet, saying that it “sends a wrong signal to Belarusians, our societies and the whole world.”

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.

Libya: IRINI re-directed MV Royal Diamond 7

European Union maritime force implementing the UN arms embargo on Libya announced Thursday, September 10, it intercepted and redirected an oil tanker headed for Benghazi after determining it was carrying jet fuel in possible violation of the ban.

The MV Royal Diamond 7 was en route from Sharjah, United Arab Emirates, to Benghazi, Libya, when members of the EU force’s Operation Irini boarded the ship 150 kilometers north of the Libyan city of Derna, the EU patrol informed.

This week, UN experts accused the parties in Libyan conflict and their international allies — including the UAE, Russia and Jordan on one side, and Turkey and Qatar on the other — of sending weapons and mercenaries to Libya in violation of the “totally ineffective” UN embargo.

A statement from the EU mission said its inspection aboard the Marshall Islands-flagged MV Royal Diamond 7 determined the cargo was jet fuel, which it said was “likely” to be used for military purposes.

The mission noted that jet fuel is considered military material by the U.N., which has authorised the EU military to seize weapons and halt weapons-transporting vessels bound for Libya.

The EU patrol mission has underlined it was redirecting the tanker to a European port for further investigation.

Libya was plunged into chaos when a NATO-backed uprising in 2011 has overthrown longtime dictator Colonel Gadhafi, who was later assassinated. The collapse of the state structures followed, and the rivalry for power began between different groups, splitting Libya between east, with the centre in Benghazi where Tobrouk parliament supported by Libyan National Army has it seat, and Tripoli administration, recognised by the UN, and the EU.

A boarding team board the Merchant Vessel Royal Diamond 7, in international waters, 150 kilometers north of the Libyan city of Derna, Thursday, Sept. 10, 2020. The European Union maritime force on errand for the supervision of the UN arms embargo on Libya reported that they had re-directed the tanker headed for Libya after determining it contained jet fuel in possible violation of the embargo. The MV Royal Diamond 7 was en route early Thursday from Sharjah, United Arab Emirates to Benghazi, Libya when members of the EU force Operation IRINI boarded the ship.

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.

Banksy rescue vessel on errand

British street artist Banksy has financed a rescue boat to transport migrants trying to reach Europe crossing Mediterranean from North African coasts.

Named Louise Michel after a 19th-century French anarchist, the 31-metre motor yacht is decorated by some of Banksy’s trademark art with a fire extinguisher depicting a girl in a life jacket reaching out to a heart-shaped lifebelt.
The artwork is similar in style to Banksy’s famous “Girl with Baloon” stencil murals.

On its website, the Louise Michel project annouces that it aims to “uphold maritime law and rescue anyone in peril without prejudice.”

On August 27 the vessel had succeeded in its first mission in the Mediterranean and boarded 89 people who were travelling to Europe from North Africa, including 14 women and 4 children.

According to the organization’s Twitter page, the rescued refugees traveled from Libya and are “safe onboard.”
“After dealing with dehydration, fuel burns and injuries from the torture they suffered in Libya, they have a moment of respite,” the organization announced.

The vessel started navigation on August 18 with 10-person crew and now is in the Mediterranean Sea, according to the Twitter micro blog of Louise Michel, looking for a port of safety for the passengers, or to transfer them to a European coastguard ship.

Banksy has been continuously supporting migration in his art, reminind that Steve Jobs was a son of a Syrian migrant. In 2015 two Banksy murals appeared in Calais, France.
The first one showed late Apple founder Steve Jobs — the son of a Syrian migrant — carrying a sack over his shoulder.

The reception of migrants represents increasing challenge for the EU Mediterranean coutries in absence of the relevant common stragegy towards migration from Africa. At present the economic situation in Africa has degraded rapidly as a result of COVID-19 restrictions, forcing more people to leave their homes in search for solution of their problems in Europe.

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”.

Borrell invites Ankara for broad dialogue

“Today’s announcement by Turkey of renewed drilling activities by the Yavuz vessel in a maritime zone which has been delineated by Cyprus and Egypt regrettably fuels further tensions and insecurity in the Eastern Mediterranean” reads the statement issued on Sunday August 16 by the EU top diplomat Josep Borrell on renewed drilling activities by Turkey in the Eastern Mediterranean.

“This action runs counter and undermines efforts to resume dialogue and negotiations, and to pursue immediate de-escalation, which is the only path towards stability and lasting solutions, as reiterated by EU Foreign Ministers last Friday”.

“I call on the Turkish authorities to end these activities immediately and to engage fully and in good faith in a broad dialogue with the European Union”.

Turkey’s vice president Fuat Oktay criticised the recently announced defense cooperation between France and the “Greek Cypriot administration of Southern Cyprus”, the text appeared on his official Twitter micro blog on Sunday, August 16.

“It is unacceptable under any circumstances that France organizes joint exercises with the Greek Cypriot administration and deploys its military aircraft to the island contrary to the 1959-60 agreements,” Fuat Oktay said on Twitter.

“It is essential for France not to seek adventure in Cyprus-related matters, and act much more responsible” he warned.

On Saturday, August 15, it was announced that a 2017 defense cooperation agreement between Cyprus and France had entered into force this August 1.

Oktay has underlined that it is essential that international circles, especially the EU, take a stand against the “spoiled, aggressive and unlawful attitudes” of France in the region.

No attempt contrary of Turkey and the TRNC [Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus] has a chance of succeeding in the Eastern Mediterranean,” he said.

Turkey will continue standing with the Turkish Cypriots to provide unconditional support to their just and legitimate struggle as well as “resolutely” continue the exploration within its jurisdiction area with the drill ship Yavuz, the vice president ensured.

« Older Entries