20th Nov 2019

EU talks tough on Turkey, but arms sales go on

  • EU sanctions imposed on third anniversary of failed 2016 coup (Photo: Reuters)

EU relations with Turkey hit a new low on Monday (15 July), but European arms sales to its Nato ally continue unabated.

The low came when EU foreign ministers imposed diplomatic and financial sanctions on Turkey over its "illegal" gas drilling in Cypriot waters in the eastern Mediterranean.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 year's of archives. 30-day free trial.

... or join as a group

They suspended high-level talks, including on an aviation accord.

They froze €146m in financial aid and said they would "review" European Investment Bank lending, worth €386m last year.

The ministers also called on EU institutions to start drawing up blacklists of Turkish entities and individuals involved in the gas operation on Cyprus' request.

The European Commission and the EU foreign service would carry out "work on options for targeted measures", the foreign ministers said.

EU foreign relations chief Federica Mogherini shooed away press questions on the gas dispute on Monday and voiced "solidarity with Turkish people" on what was the third anniversary of the failed coup against Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan in 2016.

But her warm words aside, the sanctions marked a nadir in EU-Turkey ties after the EU de facto froze accession talks with Ankara following Erdogan's post-coup crackdown.

The Turkish foreign ministry reacted with typical swagger.

The sanctions "will in no way affect Turkey's determination to continue its hydrocarbon activities" it said.

They showed "how prejudiced and biased the EU is" and were "ineffective, unrealistic, and unconstructive", it added.

It was also "revealing" that the EU took the decision on the 2016 coup anniversary, amid long-standing Turkish anger that the EU never accepted Erdogan's version of events - that the putsch was a plot by a US-based cleric called Fethullah Gulen, whose European networks the member states have sheltered.

Individual EU ministers spoke out in more strident tones than Mogherini.

"The provocations of Turkey are unacceptable to all of us," German EU affairs minister Michael Roth said in Brussels.

"It is very clear that we stand behind Cyprus," Austrian foreign minister Alexander Schallenberg added.

German submarines

But Germany, for one, has quietly increased arms exports to Turkey in recent times despite its rhetoric.

Germany shipped €184m worth of mostly submarine components to Turkey in the first four months of this year, its economy ministry said in answer to a parliamentary question by left-wing German MP Sevim Dagdelen.

The German government also approved twice as many new arms export licences to Turkey in the same period as in the whole of last year put together, the ministry said.

Turkey has been a Nato ally since 1952.

But the EU's own "common rules on arms exports" say member states should not sell weapons to countries that do not respect human rights.

They should also halt sales where "there is a clear risk that the intended recipient would use the proposed export aggressively against another country or to assert by force a territorial claim".

It is doubtful Turkish submarines would ever be used against Cyprus or Greece.

But for Dagdelen: "It is highly irresponsible that the German government, despite the policy of Turkish aggression in the eastern Mediterranean, is now also having its arms delivered to Erdogan's navy".

"Arms exports to the authoritarian regime of Turkey must be stopped, both permits and actual exports," he told the German news agency DPA.

EU arms to Turkey

Meanwhile, the controversy is bigger than Germany alone, with EU records showing that member states issued €2.8bn of arms licences to Turkey in 2017.

The figure went up from €2.3bn in 2016, the year of the failed coup, and was higher than the €2.6bn recorded in 2015 in a sign that Turkey's internal events had no impact on EU decisions.

Spain led the way with almost a billion euros of licences for aircraft equipment in 2017.

France issued permits worth €736m for mostly military vehicles and electronics, but €7m went on equipment including "riot control agents" despite Erdogan's sweeping repressions.

The UK was ready to sell €660m of "miscellaneous equipment" in 2017 and Italy issued licences for €266m of arms, including €60m of ammunition.

EU discusses new sanctions on Turkey

EU diplomats have discussed which sanctions to slap on Turkey over gas drilling in Cypriot waters, amid Ankara's ongoing mockery of Europe.


Inside Erdogan's torture chambers

A Turkish former Nato official, living in exile in Belgium, tells EUobserver what he and others went through when the Erdogan regime branded them traitors.


Pentagon: ISIS is resurgent in Syria

The US department of defence warns that the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant is working on a come back in Syria. It is regrouping and supporting activities. This might trigger a new refugee displacement to Europe.

News in Brief

  1. Estonia working on 'Plan B' for Nato
  2. Report: Hungary gagged EU on Israeli settlers
  3. Polls suggest draw after Johnson vs Corbyn TV duel
  4. EU ambassador to testify in Trump impeachment inquiry
  5. Hungary, Poland block EU conclusions on rule of law
  6. France: wide EU backing for enlargement change
  7. EU Council calls for policy action to protect marine life
  8. ECJ: Poland's judicial independence in doubt


EU diplomacy 2.0

MEPs on the foreign affairs committee ought to be like second-tier EU diplomats on the Western Balkans and Russia, according to its German chairman, but foreign policy splits could bedevil its work.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersEarmarked paternity leave – an effective way to change norms
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Climate Action Weeks in December
  3. UNESDAUNESDA welcomes Nicholas Hodac as new Director General
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersBrussels welcomes Nordic culture
  5. UNESDAUNESDA appoints Nicholas Hodac as Director General
  6. UNESDASoft drinks industry co-signs Circular Plastics Alliance Declaration
  7. FEANIEngineers Europe Advisory Group: Building the engineers of the future
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersNew programme studies infectious diseases and antibiotic resistance
  9. UNESDAUNESDA reduces added sugars 11.9% between 2015-2017
  10. International Partnership for Human RightsEU-Uzbekistan Human Rights Dialogue: EU to raise key fundamental rights issues
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNo evidence that social media are harmful to young people
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersCanada to host the joint Nordic cultural initiative 2021

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Vote for the EU Sutainable Energy AwardsCast your vote for your favourite EUSEW Award finalist. You choose the winner of 2019 Citizen’s Award.
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersEducation gets refugees into work
  3. Counter BalanceSign the petition to help reform the EU’s Bank
  4. UNICEFChild rights organisations encourage candidates for EU elections to become Child Rights Champions
  5. UNESDAUNESDA Outlines 2019-2024 Aspirations: Sustainability, Responsibility, Competitiveness
  6. Counter BalanceRecord citizens’ input to EU bank’s consultation calls on EIB to abandon fossil fuels
  7. International Partnership for Human RightsAnnual EU-Turkmenistan Human Rights Dialogue takes place in Ashgabat
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersNew campaign: spot, capture and share Traces of North
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersLeading Nordic candidates go head-to-head in EU election debate
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Secretary General: Nordic co-operation must benefit everybody
  11. Platform for Peace and JusticeMEP Kati Piri: “Our red line on Turkey has been crossed”
  12. UNICEF2018 deadliest year yet for children in Syria as war enters 9th year

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us