Merkel and Macron promise to ‘save’ EU sway in eastern Mediterranean

German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron said yesterday (20 August) they would not accept attacks on EU member states’ sovereignty, amid an escalating row with Turkey in the eastern Mediterranean.

Inside the walls of Fort de Brégançon, the traditional summer residence of French leaders, the two leaders admitted that their approaches have not always been the same.

“But they have always been convergent in their desire to make the Eastern Mediterranean an area of freedom, respect for international law and stability,” Macron said.

Europe’s strategic goal in the eastern Mediterranean is the same: European sovereignty and stability, the French President argued.

“We have the will to ensure stability in this region and the will to respect international law and to favour de-escalation,” he said.

Following a controversial deal between Turkey and Libya to demarcate maritime zones in the region, Ankara has sent a seismic vessel accompanied by the Turkish navy to explore Greek territorial waters.

Ankara claims the vessel is acting in Turkish waters while Athens says its sovereign rights are being violated.

The Greek parliament will discuss and ratify the maritime deals demarcating exclusive economic zones (EEZ) with Egypt and Italy next week, Greek government spokesman Stelios Petsas has said.

In Brégançon, both French and German leaders emphasised that attacks on EU sovereignty would not be accepted, adding that dialogue should be prioritised.

But Athens believes the EU has been soft towards Turkey while its reaction to developments in Belarus has on the contrary been quite quick.

Speaking at extraordinary EU summit last Wednesday (19 August), Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said the EU could not have double standards for Belarus and Turkey.

“The EU approach in terms of human rights and the rule of law cannot be different for Belarus and different for Turkey,” the right-wing Greek premier said.

European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen, for her part, explained yesterday that Turkey and Belarus are “two different situations”.

France and Austria have expressed their full support to Greek claims while Germany, which currently holds the EU rotating Presidency, has taken a more cautious stance.

Greece has asked for “sectorial sanctions” against Turkey if it continues its illegal drillings activities in the eastern Mediterranean. But unanimity is required in the EU Council of Ministers in order to impose sanctions at EU level.

Germany, Spain, Italy and Hungary have been cautious in the option of sanctions and instead, they prefer “discreet diplomacy” toward Ankara, EURACTIV has learnt.

A “toolbox of options” is expected to be presented by EU foeign policy chief Josep Borrell at an informal EU foreign ministers’ meeting on 27-28 August in Berlin.

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