EU leaders have warned Turkey to expect sanctions if it restarts exploration over disputed hydrocarbons in the eastern Mediterranean – specifically in the exclusive economic zone of Cyprus and Greece.
“We call on Turkey to abstain from renewed provocations or unilateral actions in breach of international law,” EU leaders said in a statement approved by the European Council late on Thursday.
They also threatened “to use the instruments and options at its disposal to defend its interests,” referring to travel bans and asset freezes on individuals, as well as sanctions on important sectors of the economy such as energy and tourism.
And that they will review progress in June.
Following a video conference, EU leaders have nonetheless made good on a 2016 promise to deepen trade ties with Turkey.
EU experts can “work on a mandate for the modernisation of the customs union,” according to the statement, allowing the 1990’s-era trade agreement to be expanded to services, farm goods and public procurement.
The customs union expansion would bring Turkey, an EU candidate for membership of the bloc, fully into the internal market of the world’s largest trading bloc, allowing almost all goods and services to flow unhindered and swelling its size by 80 million Turkish consumers.
The plan dates from 2016, when Turkey agreed to host Syrians fleeing civil war, but a host of disagreements between Ankara and Brussels over human rights, hydrocarbons and Turkey‘s stalled EU membership bid prompted EU states to hold back.