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European Commission warns Turkey over EEZ illegal activities

May 29, 2019 at 4:12pm
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The European Commission has called on Turkey to refrain from illegal actions in the Exclusive Economic Zone of Cyprus, stressed the importance of Turkey’s cooperation for the Cyprus issue resolution and reiterated its full solidarity with the Republic of Cyprus.

These points are contained in the annual Turkey enlargement progress report, approved on Wednesday European Commission and sent to the Council of the Member States for follow up.

The EC does not envisage opening of new negotiating chapters or modernising the Custom’s Union, calling on Turkey to fullfil its obligations to normalise relations with the Republic of Cyprus.

The Commission recalled the European Council statement of March 2018 “strongly condemning Turkey’s continued illegal actions in the Eastern Mediterranean and the Aegean Sea. It also recalled Turkey’s obligation to respect international law and good neighbourly relations and called on Turkey to respect the sovereign rights of Cyprus to explore and exploit its natural resources in accordance with EU and International Law. In March 2019, the EU called on Turkey to refrain from any such illegal acts, to which it would respond appropriately and in full solidarity with Cyprus”.

The European Commission warned that “the EU has repeatedly stressed the sovereign rights of EU member states, which include entering into bilateral agreements and exploring and exploiting their natural resources in accordance with the EU acquis and international law, including the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea”.

“Turkey has still not fulfilled its obligation to ensure full and nondiscriminatory implementation of the Additional Protocol to the EU-Turkey Association Agreement and has not removed all the obstacles to the free movement of goods, including restrictions on direct transport links with Cyprus. There was no progress on normalising bilateral relations with the Republic of Cyprus”, it stated.

The report further added that “there were repeated and increased violations of the territorial waters and airspaces of Greece and Cyprus by Turkey. Another source of serious concern was the six-month detention of two Greek soldiers who had been patrolling the land border but relations improved significantly on their release in August 2018 and following the Greek Prime Minister’s visit to Turkey in February”.

“In this context, the EU has expressed once again serious concern and urged Turkey to avoid any kind of threat or action directed against a Member State, or any source of friction or actions that would damage good neighbourly relations and the peaceful settlement of disputes”, the report recalled.

More specifically the paragraph dedicated to the illegal actions in the EEC goes as follows:

“Turkey’s actions and statements continued to challenge the right of the Republic of Cyprus to exploit hydrocarbon resources in the Cyprus Exclusive Economic Zone. In February 2018, Turkey undertook repeated manoeuvres by naval vessels to block the drilling operations of a vessel contracted by an Italian company and commissioned by Cyprus, which resulted in the abortion of the planned drilling activities. In May 2019, Turkey sent a drilling platform accompanied by military vessels to the Republic of Cyprus’ Exclusive Economic Zone, escalating tensions further. The EU called on Turkey to respect the sovereign rights of Cyprus to explore and exploit its natural resources in accordance with the EU acquis and international law, including the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea. In March 2019, the EU called on Turkey to refrain from any such illegal acts, to which it would respond appropriately and in full solidarity with Cyprus. The EU has also stressed the need to respect the sovereignty of Member States over their territorial sea and airspace. In March 2018, the European Council strongly condemned Turkey`s continued illegal actions in the Eastern Mediterranean and the Aegean Sea, and recalled Turkey’s obligation to respect international law and good neighbourly relations and to normalise relations with all EU Member States.”

On the Cyprus Issue resolution effort the Commission states that “as emphasised in the Negotiating Framework and Council declarations, Turkey is expected to actively support the negotiations on a fair, comprehensive and viable settlement of the Cyprus issue within the UN framework, in accordance with the relevant UN Security Council resolutions and in line with the principles on which the EU is founded”. “Turkey welcomed the UN’s renewed efforts to consult stakeholders as to a possible resumption of negotiations. Turkey’s continued commitment and contribution in concrete terms to these negotiations will be of great importance”.

“It is important to preserve the progress made so far and to pursue preparations for a fair, comprehensive and viable settlement, including in its external aspects”, the EC warned. “Turkey’s commitment and contribution in concrete terms to this comprehensive settlement remains crucial”, the EC reiterated.

The report also stated that “Turkey welcomed the UN’s renewed efforts to consult stakeholders as to a possible resumption of negotiations”, but “tensions in the region around the prospect of hydrocarbon exploration off the coast of Cyprus increased, due to Turkey’s actions and statements challenging the right of the Republic of Cyprus to exploit hydrocarbon resources in the Cyprus Exclusive Economic Zone”.

“Turkey has still not fulfilled its obligation to ensure full and non-discriminatory implementation of the Additional Protocol to the EU-Turkey Association Agreement and has not removed all the obstacles to the free movement of goods, including restrictions on direct transport links with Cyprus. There was no progress on normalising bilateral relations with the Republic of Cyprus” the European Commission warned.

Furthermore the EC report states that “the process of granting the Committee on Missing Persons full access to all relevant archives and military areas has seen welcome developments, but needs to be further expedited”.

“Despite repeated calls by the Council and the Commission, Turkey has still not complied with its obligations as outlined in the Declaration of the European Community and its Member States of 21 September 2005 and in Council Conclusions, including those of December 2006 and December 2015”, it stated, also judging that “Turkey has not fulfilled its obligation to ensure full and non-discriminatory implementation of the Additional Protocol to the Association Agreement and has not removed all obstacles to the free movement of goods, including restrictions on direct transport links with the Republic of Cyprus. There was no progress on normalising bilateral relations with the Republic of Cyprus”.

The European Commission further said that “Turkey continued to veto applications by the Republic of Cyprus to join several international organisations, including the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).

It also recalled specifically that “in line with the Negotiating Framework and previous European Council and Council conclusions, the Council reiterated in June 2018 that Turkey needs to commit itself unequivocally to good neighbourly relations, international agreements and the peaceful settlement of disputes in accordance with the United Nations Charter, having recourse, if necessary, to the International Court of Justice”.

“In this context, the EU has again expressed serious concern, and urged Turkey to avoid any kind of threat or action directed against a Member State, or any source of friction or action that would damage good neighbourly relations and the peaceful settlement of disputes” the EC reiterated.

It should be finally noted that in the chapter on Justice and Fundamental Rights the report states that “the implementation of the Cyprus v. Turkey case regarding missing persons and restrictions on the property rights of Greek Cypriots displaced or living permanently in the northern part of Cyprus is still pending, as is the question of ‘just satisfaction’ (compensation)”.

“Regarding the implementation of the Demopoulos v. Turkey decision of 5 March 2010, 6 538 applications from Greek Cypriot owners have to date been lodged with the Immovable Property Commission (IPC), 105 of them during the reporting period. As of March 2019, 964 applications had been concluded through amicable settlements and 33 through formal hearings”, the report said.

“Altogether, the IPC has so far paid out the equivalent of EUR 349 million in compensation. In December 2018, the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe reviewed Cyprus v. Turkey as well as Varnava and others and Xenides-Arestis group v. Turkey. No progress was made on any of those cases.”

“In its judgement on the Güzelyurtlu and others v. Cyprus and Turkey case of January 2019, the ECHR has found, for the first time, a violation of Article 2 ECHR on the sole basis of a Turkey’s failure to cooperate with the Republic of Cyprus on criminal matters”, it added.

Concerning the general state of the accession negotiations the EC Turkey Progress report states that “Turkey remains a key partner for the European Union” and that it has been linked to the EU by an Association Agreement since 1964 and a Customs Union was established in 1995.

“The European Council granted the status of candidate country to Turkey in December 1999 and accession negotiations were opened in October 2005. Within the framework of accession negotiations, 16 chapters have been opened so far and one of these was provisionally closed.”

“The General Affairs Council conclusions of June 2018 stated that under the currently prevailing circumstances, Turkey’s accession negotiations have effectively come to a standstill, no further chapters can be considered for opening or closing and no further work towards the modernisation of the Customs Union can be currently foreseen,” it added.

Finally it states that “the Turkish government’s repeated commitment to the objective of EU accession has not been matched by corresponding measures and reforms since then, and the EU’s serious concerns on continued negative developments in rule of law, fundamental rights and the Judiciary have not been addressed” and that “the EU-Turkey Association Council held its 54th meeting on 15 March 2019 in Brussels. After a hiatus of three years, the inter-ministerial Reform Action Group resumed its work, holding meetings in August and December 2018, as well as on 9 May 2019”.

On the migration issue the report states: “Operational cooperation with Greece on migration further continued. However, tensions in the Aegean Sea and Eastern Mediterranean undermined regional stability and security. There were repeated and increased violations of the territorial waters and airspaces of Greece and Cyprus by Turkey”.

“Operational cooperation with Greece on migration further continued. However, tensions in the Aegean Sea and Eastern Mediterranean were not conducive to good neighbourly relations and undermined regional stability and security. Bilateral relations with several individual EU Member States in particular with Austria, Germany and the Netherlands improved. The Netherlands and Turkey normalised relations”.

(Cyprus News Agency)