The EU General Affairs Council’s harsh warning to Ankara and its decision to ask the European Commission to review possible sanctions against Turkey in response to its violation of the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) of the Republic of Cyprus was in part shaped by the implied threat by Cyprus’ Foreign Minister Nikos Christodoulidis that he would not sign on to the Council’s conclusions on EU enlargement, which was the subject of the meeting.

Asked by Cyprus’ if he was prepared to brandish a veto of the conclusions – which require unanimous approval – in order to persuade EU partners to approve the immediate tabling of proposed sanctions against Turkey Christodoulidis said that, “After our intervention, 23 countries approved our request and the rest did not take a stand against the Republic of Cyprus. There were some references to a need for a cautious stance [toward Turkey] due to the migration issue.”

“Regarding the veto card, I want to explain something so as to make it perfectly clear. Yesterday’s decision regards the conclusions on [EU] enlargement, which concern Turkey, Albania, Skopje, Serbia, and so forth. For the conclusions to be approved it requires that all countries agree unanimously. What I mentioned in my remarks was that the draft conclusions as regards Turkey that we had before us at the start of the meeting were unsatisfactory and that we could not approve them [which would be tantamount to a veto],” Christodoulidis said.

Commission’s tabling of possible sanctions a precedent

Christodoulidis stressed the importance of the 18 June decision of the General Affairs Council to ask the European Commission to immediately table possible sanctions against Turkey.

“This is the first time that such a decision has been taken concerning Turkey, and it is the result of its [Ankara’s] illegal actions in Cyprus’ EEZ,” Christodoulidis said.

Cyprus’ foreign minister noted that aside from the conclusions on enlargement, the issue of Turkish violations of Cyprus’ EEZ is a distinct issue for the European Council and that further decisions may be taken to address the issue in the future.