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BSF Discussion: What is at stake in the Eastern Mediterranean?

BSF Discussion: What is at stake in the Eastern Mediterranean?

Discussion points:

  • What is at stake in the Eastern Mediterranean?
  • How can one alleviate Cyprus/Turkey’s concerns? Is military escalation possible?
  • What role for the EU? Will it miss this chance to reassert its credibility as a foreign policy actor?
  • What role does the United States play in the region? How does EM fit in their “grand strategy”, if there is one?

Europe is divided on how to proceed in the Eastern Mediterranean. And it would be wrong to narrow it down to the issue of energy. An extremely complex problem, it concerns not only the decade-long dispute over Cyprus and competing claims in the Aegean Sea, but Turkey’s role in Libya, and Ankara’s growing sense of isolation. Next to Ankara and Nicosia, one superpower (USA) and several regional powers (UAE, Israel, Greece) have since become involved. Geopolitics, respective countries’ aspirations, shifting alliances all generate instability. Also, reactions to Cypriot refusal to join EU sanctions against Belarus officials show there is still little understanding of how serious the conflict has become, with sides now applying “linkage” diplomacy. The best thing the EU can do now is call on Greece and Turkey to continue the talks that began in 2016; first steps towards de-escalation seem to have been taken. Until then, we can contemplate the words of Nikos Scoutaris, who writes how one part of the problem, from the beginning, has been that Ankara and Athens take maximalist positions, ignoring (legitimate?) demands of the other side. He accepts that such positions are expected in any negotiation, but, “when they begin to prevail as a narrative, they grow into obstruction and become counterproductive, contrary to the long-term interests of a country.”