The horrific expertise of World Warfare II compelled European leaders to determine a supranational group that’s now the European Union, which, if profitable, would create amongst its members, particularly between Germany and France, an unbreakable bond, stopping the in any other case “savage continent” from destroying itself as soon as once more because it did many instances earlier than 1945. Whereas the adoption of the widespread foreign money, the euro, after 1999 is cited because the epitome of European monetary unity, with regards to overseas coverage, the EU itself is much from united.

Discovery of Pure Fuel Exposes Turkey’s Political Rifts


The spat between EU candidate Turkey and EU member Greece over the boundaries of their unique financial zones (EEZ) within the japanese Mediterranean has uncovered this intra-EU discord. Greece’s repeated calls to Brussels for solidarity have principally been ignored, and France’s relentless efforts to create a strong anti-Turkish bloc have yielded nothing however some rhetorical help for Greece. France sees the rising Turkish affect in Libya as a grave risk to its financial pursuits in West Africa and the Sahel. Because of this perceived Turkish risk, Paris has been doing all the things in its energy to sabotage it, together with throwing unconditional help behind Greece.

Europe’s Locomotive

The Greek frustration with the EU peaked at an all-time excessive on the International Affairs Council on August 14, when member states Germany, Italy, Spain, Hungary, Bulgaria and Malta vetoed the request by Athens to sanction Ankara. In retaliation, the Greek Cypriots blocked an EU joint assertion on sanctions towards Belarus following the violent suppression of anti-government protests by the regime of Alexander Lukashenko. On September 10, French President Emmanuel Macron hosted the MED7 international locations — Cyprus, France, Greece, Italy, Malta, Portugal and Spain — on the island of Corsica, the birthplace of Napoleon, hoping to mount stress on Turkey, solely to be upset that the leaders of Spain, Italy, Malta and Portugal prevented inflammatory remarks and emphasised the significance of a dialogue with Ankara.

In truth, the day after the summit, Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez known as Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to specific Spain’s willingness to reinforce bilateral relations. On the identical day, Italian Minister of International Affairs Luigi Di Maio and Turkish Minister of International Affairs Mevlut Cavusoglu mentioned on the telephone “the issues associated to Libya and the Jap Mediterranean.” Two days after the Corsica summit, the Maltese Minister of EU International Affairs Evarist Bartolo met with Cavusoglu in Turkey’s Mediterranean resort city of Antalya.

Macron’s European companions have upset him earlier than. France claimed that on June 10, Turkish warships locked their weapons techniques on to a French frigate, the Courbet, which was a part of NATO’s Sea Guardian monitoring mission. As a knee-jerk response to this incident, France suspended its naval operations within the Mediterranean. France took the difficulty to NATO, which Macron has inconveniently known as “braindead” prior to now, and whose majority of members are additionally a part of the EU. To Macron’s dismay, solely eight of the 30 NATO members backed France’s claims towards Turkey, which French Protection Minister Florence Parly described as “critical and unacceptable.” Later, NATO introduced that the probe into the incident was “inconclusive.”  

So why is Europe so divided with regards to Turkey? Why have France and Greece didn’t create European unanimity towards Turkey? The reply lies in the truth that the altering regional political and financial realities are forcing the European states to pursue their very own particular person agendas similar to they did within the early 20th century, heralding the demise of the best to create the US of Europe. Merely put, due to their vested curiosity in Ankara’s dealing with of the refugee disaster in addition to their uneasiness about an ascendant France within the Mediterranean, some EU member states select to align with Turkey moderately than defend Greece’s maritime claims, severely undermining Paris’ effort to curb Ankara’s ambitions.  

Germany, the locomotive of the European Union, may be very involved concerning the steady inflow of refugees into Europe, which has already begun to disrupt the monetary, social and political make-up of the continent. For Berlin, Turkey’s skill to accommodate greater than four million refugees it at present shelters is paramount to saving the contracting EU economies additional affected by COVID-19. Additionally, not angering Erdogan on this gloomy ambiance is way more vital for German Chancellor Angela Merkel than to mount a battle for Greece’s declared maritime borders within the far japanese stretches of the Mediterranean.

Merkel’s motivation to get together with Erdogan upsets Macron, who feels the necessity to comprise Turkey in Libya, West Africa and the japanese Mediterranean. Macron sees Brexit and the receding US affect as a historic alternative to claim France’s position because the chief on the European continent, which in flip might herald Franco-German frictions. He repeatedly degraded the significance of NATO as a standard protection mechanism at a time when Merkel is alarmed by US President Donald Trump’s resolution to significantly lower the variety of American troops in Germany. Macron has incessantly criticized Merkel for permitting Germany’s much-needed Nord Stream 2 fuel pipeline into Europe as he believes it’ll enhance the European reliance on Russia.

This Gaullist strategy has not solely irked Germany, but additionally raised concern with France’s Mediterranean neighbors, Italy, and Spain, who’ve traditionally considered an ascendant France with suspicion. Therefore their tacit help for Turkey, France’s present geopolitical perceived arch-rival. 

Italy vs. France

The Italian resentment towards France goes again to the 2011 French and NATO-led navy intervention in Libya, which toppled Muammar Gaddafi. Italy sees the following rising instability in Libya as a risk to nationwide safety as migrants, not solely from Libya but additionally from sub-Saharan Africa, started to pour onto Italian shores. The Italians believed that Gaddafi’s iron-fist rule over Libya acted as a barrier between Italy and the extra unstable and disadvantaged components of Africa.  

The present migrant concern has severely harm the Franco-Italian relations. Each side have repeatedly summoned one another’s ambassadors, a critical signal of friction, criticizing the measures every refused to take. In June 2018, the Italian Ministry of International Affairs summoned France’s ambassador to Rome after Macron harshly criticized Italy’s refusal to just accept the migrant ship Aquarius carrying greater than 600 folks.

In June 2019, the present Italian overseas minister and then-deputy prime minister, Luigi Di Maio, lambasted the French immigration coverage by saying that “If immediately individuals are leaving, it’s as a result of sure European international locations, chief amongst them France, by no means stopped colonizing dozens of African international locations. France prints the foreign money, the colonial franc, in dozens of African international locations, and with this foreign money, they finance the French debt . . . If France didn’t have the African colonies, she could be the world’s 15th financial energy, however she’s among the many first due to what she’s doing in Africa.” Di Maio even known as for EU sanctions towards France. The row escalated to some extent the place France recalled its ambassador to Italy in February 2019, a transfer unprecedented for the reason that Second World Warfare. The acrimony with France has prompted Rome to aspect with Ankara on this newest diplomatic spat.

Italy’s help for Turkey in Libya appears to have paid off. After Turkey’s profitable navy marketing campaign towards the French-backed Normal Khalifa Haftar earlier this yr, a senior European diplomat informed the Monetary Instances: “Let’s be sincere, Turkey stopped the autumn of Tripoli. With out their intervention, it could have been a humanitarian catastrophe.” The inflow of these working fleeing Haftar’s retribution would have severely crippled Italy.  

An ascendant France within the Mediterranean basin additionally threatens Italy’s financial pursuits. Italy had appreciable enterprise stakes in Libya underneath Gaddafi, whose elimination from energy severely jeopardized them. The Italian power big ENI first entered the oil-rich nation in 1959 and had a steady presence all through the 1980s, even when the West snubbed the Gaddafi regime for its hyperlinks to terrorism. Earlier than the French-led navy intervention, Operation Harmattan, in 2011, Libya accounted for 15% of ENI’s complete world hydrocarbons output, with oil manufacturing at 108,000 barrels per day and pure fuel manufacturing at 9.four billion cubic meters.

Right now, quite a lot of profitable oil initiatives are at stake for ENI, together with the Bouri oil subject, the most important offshore subject within the Mediterranean Sea, situated instantly off the coast of Libya. This space is managed by the Turkish-backed Authorities of Nationwide Accord. Contemplating that ENI’s greatest challenger for the Libyan oil and fuel is the French oil big Complete, Rome has naturally supported Fayez al-Sarraj’s Turkey-led coalition towards Khalifa Haftar’s French-backed Libyan Nationwide Military. This too explains why Rome is reluctant to affix France and Greece in imposing sanctions on Turkey.  

British Concerns

Traditionally talking, France’s rising ambitions within the Mediterranean have triggered British suspicion. For example, it was British help for the Ottoman Empire within the late 18th century that facilitated the defeat of Napoleon Bonaparte by the Turks in Egypt and Syria, which additionally safeguarded British regional pursuits. Simply because it was then, immediately Turkey has turn into an vital a part of the UK’s geopolitical issues, notably within the post-Brexit period. London has manifested its help for Ankara on varied events. For instance, the UK, which has strategic Akrotiri and Dhekelia navy bases on the island of Cyprus, brazenly rejected the Greek Cypriots’ request for cooperation towards Turkey. Angered by this refusal, the Greek Cypriots turned to France.

With regard to the Turkey-France naval incident, UK Prime minister Boris Johnson clearly sided with Turkey by publicly stating, “I don’t give a lot credence to France’s view.” As a show of solidarity, the British frigate HMS Argyll and Turkish TCG Giresun held an unique naval coaching train within the disputed waters of the japanese Mediterranean the day after the French-led MED7 summit in Corsica. 

The UK’s want to cooperate with Turkey within the Mediterranean can also be mirrored on the smallest EU member, Malta, which shares a maritime border with Libya. Though it declared its independence from the UK in 1964, Malta’s overseas coverage nonetheless is closely influenced by London. In Libya, the Maltese authorities has brazenly declared its help for the Turkey-backed al-Sarraj administration. Furthermore, as a blow to France’s efforts to forestall Turkey from sending weapons to Libya, Malta vetoed EU funding for Operation Irini meant to implement an arms embargo.

Malta’s help for Turkey within the Mediterranean partially stems from the anti-French sentiment that prevails in society. Outstanding Maltese broadcaster Charles Xuereb, the creator of “France within the Maltese Collective Reminiscence: Perceptions, Views, Identities After Bonaparte in British Malta,” states that “Napoleon’s slaughter of hundreds of Maltese and the heavy pillaging of the island created a Maltese collective reminiscence which blocks something French however sees the British as their saviors.” It’s only pure for Malta to throw its help behind Turkey, which has confronted France all through the area. 

Romantic Concepts

The place will we go from right here? The romantic thought of a united Europe the place prosperity, democracy and solidarity reign supreme is turning into more and more out of date. The ageing inhabitants, the inflow of refugees and the rising populist far proper, the COVID-19 pandemic and the abysmal state of eurozone economies, which is rising the north-south divide, have all however weakened the thought of a shared future for the Europeans.

The weakening of Europe is occurring at a time when Turkey appears to be on the rise. EU International Minister Josep Borrell said earlier this month: “Europe is dealing with a scenario by which we will say that the previous Empires are coming again, at the least three of them: Russia, China, and Turkey; huge empires of the previous who’re coming again with an strategy on their rapid neighborhood, globally, which characterize for us a brand new surroundings. And Turkey is certainly one of these parts that change our surroundings.” 

What is occurring within the Mediterranean isn’t solely a battle between Greece and Turkey — it’s also a European drawback. Turkey’s ascendancy within the area ought to be anticipated to speed up the fracturing of Europe, the place every state is more and more preoccupied with its personal issues, forming competing alliances towards each other.

The most recent addition to this chessboard is the renewed preventing between Azerbaijan and Armenia over the disputed area of Nagorno-Karabakh. Either side is accusing the opposite of inflicting the flare-up, however in response to UN Safety Council resolutions, Armenia is illegally occupying 20% of Azeri territory. On this battle too, as in Libya, Syria and Iraq, Turkey holds the important thing. Turkey’s help for Azerbaijan has already led to heavy Armenian casualties. The Azeri-Armenian battle will solely strengthen Turkey’s place vis-à-vis Europe much more, disincentivizing Brussels to take measures towards Ankara.  

The dream of a united Europe is turning into extra of an unattainable every day. The query now arises whether or not President Erdogan would be the one to deal the ultimate blow to that concept.

The views expressed on this article are the creator’s personal and don’t essentially mirror’s editorial coverage.