Greece asks EU to consider suspending customs union with Turkey

Greek media says foreign minister’s move comes amid mounting tensions between Athens and Ankara over disputed East Mediterranean waters.

Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias speaks during a joint statement with his Italian counterpart Luigi Di Maio at the Foreign Ministry in Athens
Dendias wrote to the European commissioner asking him to consider suspending the EU's customs union agreement [File: Costas Baltas/Reuters]

Greece’s Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias has written to the European Union asking it to consider suspending the EU’s customs union agreement with Turkey, the Greek state news agency ANA reported on Tuesday.

Dendias wrote to the European commissioner for neighbourhood and enlargement, Oliver Varhelyi, asking him to look at the measure in response to Turkey’s repeated violations of the agreement, the agency said.

Under President Recip Tayyip Erdogan, Turkey has become an increasingly assertive regional power that is now engaged in a bitter dispute with Greece and Cyprus over oil and gas reserves in the Eastern Mediterranean.

In August, Turkey sent a gas exploration vessel to waters Greece claims south of the Greek island of Kastellorizo. The vessel spent nearly a month there before pulling out in early September.

In a statement last week, Turkey’s foreign ministry said the activity range was “fully within Turkish continental shelf”.

“It is unacceptable for there to be opposition against our country, which has the longest coastline to the Eastern Mediterranean, operating 15km from its mainland,” it said, adding Greek criticisms were “baseless accusations with no standing in international law”.

“Our expectation from Greece is for it to withdraw its maximalist claims that are contrary to international law … put an end to its exercises and military activities that increase tensions in the Aegean and the Mediterranean, and to enter into a sincere dialogue with us.”

At the end of a summit last week, EU leaders on Friday condemned Turkey’s “unilateral actions and provocations” in the Mediterranean. The United States has also criticised Ankara’s move.

The bloc warned Ankara that it would consider sanctions at its next summit in December if Turkey had not changed its policy.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies