Authoritarian leaders mocking EU over weak foreign policy - analyst

That any European Union member state can veto any foreign policy decision for the bloc has resulted in leaders like Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and Belarus’s Alexander Lukashenko “laughing loudest,” as any threat of sanctions is effectively voided, editor Andreas Kluth wrote for Bloomberg Opinion on Wednesday.

“Is it any wonder the world’s hard-nosed autocrats and nationalists, practitioners of Realpolitik all, don’t take the EU seriously, unless the subject is trade?” Kluth said.

Proposed EU sanctions against Belarus fell through this week by a veto from Cyprus, as the small Mediterranean island nation held its one leverage over Germany’s hesitance to sanction Turkey for its actions in the Eastern Mediterranean.

Germany was in favour of further negotiations before sanctioning Turkey, as the EU and its neighbour have several conflicts that are still active – including the refugee issue, one of Europe’s most divisive.

Turkey and Greece are ready to start exploratory talks, Turkish officials announced on Tuesday, following Erdoğan’s meeting with European Council President Charles Michel and German Chancellor Angela Merkel. The trilateral summit discussed various aspects of EU-Turkey relations, including the customs union agreement and visa requirements for Turks.

A summit where sanctions against Turkey were to be voted on was postponed due to Michel’s contact with a coronavirus-positive officer. The EU is weighing sanctions against Turkey over its claim on the internationally-recognised territorial waters of member states Greece and Cyprus, as well as its natural gas exploration efforts in the Eastern Mediterranean, accompanied by Turkish warships.

“It’s entirely understandable that different member states will have different foreign policy interests,” Kluth said, but “as long as anybody can block everybody, all lose.”

As a solution to the conundrum, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen proposed qualified majority voting, where 55 percent of member states representing at least 65 percent of the bloc’s population could impose sanctions.