EU shows teeth in Cyprus conflict

The EU on Tuesday warned that the bloc’s foreign ministers will consider remedial action against Turkey at their next meeting if Ankara does not reverse its decision to partially open Varosha to tourism. EU stated the Varosha move is contrary to UN Security Council Resolutions.  Actually, the decision to open Varosha is the responsibility of the government of Northern Cyprus Turkish Republic, but this entity is not recognized by EU or UN.


In a written statement on behalf of the EU, High Representative Josep Borrell said the European Union “strongly condemns Turkey’s unilateral steps and the unacceptable announcements made by the Turkish President and the leader of the Turkish Cypriot community on 20 July 2021 on the further reopening of the fenced-off town of Varosha.”


Borrell said the EU welcomes the statement made by the President of the UN Security Council on behalf of the Council last week, and in particular the condemnation and expression of deep regret about the unilateral actions in Varosha that run contrary to the Security Council’s previous resolutions and statements.


“The EU equally calls for the immediate reversal of these actions and the reversal of all steps taken on Varosha since October 2020,” Borrell said. He added that the EU “continues to hold the government of Turkey responsible for the situation in Varosha.”


The announcement last week by Turkish Cypriot leader Ersin Tatar on the demilitarization and opening of 3.5 per cent of the fenced area of Varosha for settlement was presented as a decision of ‘cabinet’ in the north with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan welcoming the move. The fenced area of Varosha, however, is under the control of the Turkish military.


Borrell said the EU continues to be guided by the relevant Security Council resolutions, 550 (1984) and 789 (1992), which consider attempts to settle any part of Varosha by people other than its inhabitants as inadmissible, and which call for the transfer of that area to the administration of the UN.


“No actions should be carried out in relation to Varosha that are not in accordance with those resolutions,” Borrell said, adding that full respect for and implementation of Security Council resolutions also require an immediate end to restrictions imposed on the freedom of movement of the United Nations Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus (Unficyp) in the Varosha area.


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He reiterated the EU’s position on the need to avoid unilateral actions in breach of international law and renewed provocations, which could raise tensions on the island and compromise the ongoing efforts to seek common ground between the parties towards a lasting settlement of the Cyprus issue in line with relevant Security Council resolutions.

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The EU, he said, remains fully committed to a comprehensive settlement of the Cyprus problem on the basis of a bi-zonal, bi-communal federation with political equality while it is crucial that Turkey commits and contributes constructively to the resumption of negotiations.


Borrell said (foreign) ministers will consider actions at their next meeting, “in case of non-reversal of Turkey’s actions contrary to UN Security Council Resolutions 550/84 and 789/92” following the statement of the members of the European Council of March 25, 2021, which reaffirmed the determination of the EU, in case of renewed provocations and unilateral actions in breach of international law, to use the instruments and options at its disposal to defend its interests and those of its member states, as well as to uphold regional stability.


The EU foreign ministers are set to hold an informal meeting (Gymnich) on September 2 and 3 in Kranj, Slovenia.


The next Foreign Affairs Council is scheduled for October 18.



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Substantive sanctions from EU are unlikely as long as Turkey is hosting 4 million Syrian refugees, and is absorbing an increasing flow of new ones from Afghanistan each day. However the current EU policy towards turkey is the product of German Chancellor Merkel’s ingenuity; who kept Turkey waiting outside the door for membership, but appeased her with grants for refugee aid.


Once she hands the job to her successor, the balance in EU could shift decisively to the anti-Turkey camp, which is led by French President Macron. UK too was hesitant to sanction Turkey on account of good trade relations and perhaps because Westminster knew peace in Cyprus is not blocked by the Turkish Axis. Greek intransigence has a large role in the endless stalemate.


Even if EU were not to slap new sanctions on Turkey, the feel-good factor which bloomed very briefly after a peaceful EU summit,  which Turkish President Erdogan attended. EU once again is treating Erdogan as an incorrigible troublemaker.


It is now highly doubtful that EU would give Turkey even a date for the new Customs Union negotiations, much less exempt Turkish citizens from the visa requirement.



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Published By: Atilla Yeşilada

GlobalSource Partners’ Turkey Country Analyst Atilla Yesilada is the country’s leading political analyst and commentator. He is known throughout the finance and political science world for his thorough and outspoken coverage of Turkey’s political and financial developments. In addition to his extensive writing schedule, he is often called upon to provide his political expertise on major radio and television channels. Based in Istanbul, Atilla is co-founder of the information platform Istanbul Analytics and is one of GlobalSource’s local partners in Turkey. In addition to his consulting work and speaking engagements throughout the US, Europe and the Middle East, he writes regular columns for Turkey’s leading financial websites VATAN and and has contributed to the financial daily Referans and the liberal daily Radikal.