Sunday

23rd Jan 2022

Nato chief tells EU to reach security pact with Turkey

Nato chief Anders Fogh Rasmussen on Tuesday spelt out the political steps needed in order for the military alliance and the EU to overcome a political deadlock stemming from a long-standing row between Turkey and Cyprus.

Mr Rasmussen argued that the EU must move to accommodate Turkish concerns and conclude an security agreement with Ankara.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

  • Rasmussen says EU needs to accommodate some of Turkey's concerns (Photo: Nato)

"[EU] high representative Catherine Ashton and I have gotten off to a strong start in our co-operation and we both share the view that Nato and the EU need to talk and do more together from planning to procurement to operations," Nato chief Anders Fogh Rasmussen told reporters after co-chairing a joint session of EU and Nato ambassadors with Ms Ashton.

The meeting, which was the first since Ms Ashton took office in December last year, was dedicated to the joint operations in Bosnia and Herzegovina, but also touched on broader EU-Nato relations and the changes brought about by the Lisbon Treaty, such as on how information on defence and security matters will be dealt with within EU's new diplomatic service.

Nato and EU diplomats have met informally every three months, but their gatherings have been limited to discussing the practicalities of missions such as the one in Bosnia. Any other issue touching broader inter-institutional relations would have immediately been blocked by Greece or France, who would stress that such matters needed to be discussed together with Cyprus, a member of the EU but not Nato.

Mr Rasmussen said he wanted these meetings to take place on "a much more regular basis," especially since the new treaty gives the EU and Ms Ashton a "more robust foreign policy role."

He conceded that the Turkish-Cypriot row, which has been blocking co-operation between the two institutions, is a "political complication" that won't be cleared "overnight", but he spelled out what needed to be done on both sides for this to happen.

The dispute over the northern part of Cyprus, which is still occupied by Turkish troops and whose independence is recognised only by Ankara has unsettled EU-Nato relations ever since Cyprus joined the EU in 2004. Ankara has vetoed any attempt at opening access to classified Nato documents to the Greek Cypriot authorities, while Cyprus has been blocking Turkish participation in EU defence activities.

Turkey has no access to EU documents relating to military missions, as it is the only Nato member not having signed a security agreement with the 27-strong bloc, precisely because of the Cypriot issue. Additionally, joint procurement initiatives on European level that are co-ordinated by the European Defence Agency are also off-limits.

"Speaking frankly, maybe a bit bluntly, the EU must move to accommodate some concerns raised by Nato allies that are not EU members. The EU should include non-EU contributors to the military decision-making process, it should conclude a security agreement with Turkey and an arrangement between Turkey and the European Defence Agency," Mr Rasmussen said.

But the former Danish Prime Minister, who admitted he was no diplomat but that this allowed him to speak openly, also conceded steps needed to be taken by his own organisation.

"On our side, it should be accepted that Cyprus is a country that deserves a seat at the table when we are having a dialogue between the EU and Nato," he said.

Just as in past meetings, Cyprus' ambassador to the EU's political and security committee was not invited at the Tuesday gathering, which is based on a series of practical arrangements called the "Berlin plus" agreements, allowing Nato to offer its technical support to EU-led missions, such as the one in Bosnia.

In some European capitals, this bilateral row is already starting to be seen as increasingly embarrassing, especially since more and more EU countries need to slash public spending, with parallel EU and Nato programmes translating into unnecessary additional and costly expenditures.

Berlin, for instance, has already been voicing its concern with Greek and Turkish authorities to stop treating each other as if they were still at war over the divided island of Cyprus and cut down their defence budgets.

Greece spends more than any other EU member on its military, about €13.4 billion or 5.6 percent of GDP and has recently pledged to bring the figure down to three percent, but only if Turkey does the same.

Lawyers threaten action over new EU gas and nuclear rules

Environmental lawyers are threatening to take legal action against the European Commission if gas is included in the EU guidelines for sustainable finances. But the draft taxonomy has also triggered discontent among some EU national capitals and MEPs.

MEPs urge inclusion of abortion rights in EU charter

MEPs have recalled their demands to include the right to legal and safe abortion into the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights, a day after French president Emmanuel Macron pledged to open such a debate in the EU Council.

EU orders Poland to pay €70m in fines

The case is one of many disputes between the EU and Poland's ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party, which have started to cost money for Warsaw.

Dutch mayors protest strict lockdown measures

Thirty Dutch mayors have asked the national government to rethink its corona pandemic measures amid protests from museums and cultural centres against continued lockdown.

Macron promises strong EU borders

Obligatory detentions, more security-screening, and faster deportations - these are the French EU presidency's migration priorities.

MEPs to crackdown on digital 'Wild West'

MEPs will vote on new rules setting out transparency obligations for online players and holding Big Tech giants accountable. But some issues proved to be divisive after EU lawmakers tabled over a hundred amendments on the file.

News in Brief

  1. 'No embargo' on meetings with Putin, EU says
  2. Austria to fine unvaccinated people €3,600
  3. MEP: Airlines should start paying for CO2 sooner
  4. Twitter forced to disclose what it does to tackle hate speech
  5. EU watchdog calls for ban on political microtargeting
  6. MEPs adopt position on Digital Service Act
  7. Blinken delivers stark warning to Russia in Berlin
  8. Hungary's Orbán to discuss nuclear project with Putin

Analysis

Hydrogen - the 'no-lose bet' for fossil-fuel industry?

The EU plans to label natural gas as 'green' in sustainable investment rules. From 2026 it will have to be blended with low-carbon gases like green hydrogen - but many scientists warn this is inefficient, costly and damaging to health.

Opinion

Macron's vision will hit EU Council veto buffers

President Emmanuel Macron's address to the European Parliament championed a bold and ambitious pro-European agenda. There is one problem though - the plans rely on a system of governance that has gridlocked the EU for over a decade.

Latest News

  1. Lawyers threaten action over new EU gas and nuclear rules
  2. MEPs urge inclusion of abortion rights in EU charter
  3. EU orders Poland to pay €70m in fines
  4. Dutch mayors protest strict lockdown measures
  5. Macron promises strong EU borders
  6. MEPs to crackdown on digital 'Wild West'
  7. Macron calls for new security order and talks with Russia
  8. Macron's vision will hit EU Council veto buffers

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us