Can there be any talk of EU energy solidarity without Turkey? - LEVENT YILMAZ

Can there be any talk of EU energy solidarity without Turkey?

Let me answer this question upfront: it’s impossible! In the light of the Russia-Ukraine war, the desperation of EU member states regarding energy has left them eyeing Turkey, as Ankara’s strategic importance is becoming more and more clear. Yet the attitudes of certain member states on this issue have taken the entire bloc hostage. How can that be?


Greece’s attitude stalls progress within the EU


Some of you might recall, that as a result of the Greek Cypriot Administration of Southern Cyprus joining the EU in 2004, the bloc also imported the chronic hostilities of the Greek Cypriot administration through the Cyprus dispute. This has also blocked any cooperation or long-term positive relations that the EU could establish with Turkey. For example, the energy chapter—without preconditions—of Turkey's EU membership negotiation process was stopped by the Greek Cypriot Administration and Greece. Because according to the EU system, a member state has the right to stop negotiations with candidate countries without the need to provide any convincing reasons.


Later, the EU launched an overture with Turkey covering eight chapters, including energy, to bypass the blockade in 2012. Additionally, the High-level Dialogue was launched on March 16, 2015, to develop strategic cooperation and dialogue in the field of energy between Turkey and the EU. The Greek Cypriot Administration struck again this time, and high-level talks were suspended at the EU Foreign Relations Council meeting on July 15, 2019, citing Turkey's hydrocarbon activities in the Eastern Mediterranean.



Will the EU be able to break free of captivity?


Those most aware of Turkey’s strategic importance in terms of the bloc’s energy supply security are actually EU members themselves. This fact was kept under wraps for a long time to prevent Turkey from adopting a harsher stance. So much so that the fact that the Turkey spearheaded Southern Gas Corridor, which is a project of common interest in the EU, was ignored. 


However, the new order that started to emerge following the Russia-Ukraine War represented an important opportunity for the bloc to improve Turkey-EU relations, including energy, where the EU is utterly helpless. At this stage, the determining factor for the process is whether the EU will be able to break free of the captivity of the Greek Cypriot administration, which has plagued the bloc through a fait accompli.



Turkey-EU energy negotiations


Currently, the energy issue is not a part of Turkey’s negotiation process with the EU. Moreover, the High-Level Dialogue channel is not active either. Yet, Turkey is indispensable for the energy supply security of the EU. In this respect, there have long been murmurs in the corridors of the Council of Europe that the energy dossier, which the EU has long ignored and sacrificed to the "childish whims" of the Greek Cypriot administration, should be back on the table as soon as possible. 


I sincerely hope the European Council will not repeat the same mistakes once again and sacrifice this new opportunity to the "adolescent" behavior of Greece and the Greek Cypriot administration.


EU solidarity


It is an undeniable fact that the EU is about to hurtle towards a dead-end at full speed when it comes to the issue of energy. Although not expressed publicly, increasing concerns within the Council of Europe have accelerated the search for a "Turkey-centered" solution to this particular issue. Now, the EU has to openly accept the fact that Turkey is the linchpin in establishing a permanent solution.


In that case, the EU should act with the knowledge that the common interests of the bloc are greater than the sum of the interests of Greece and the Greek Cypriot administration. The fact is that EU solidarity, especially when it comes to energy, is impossible without Turkey!

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