Tukey erupts at Brussels over EU military plans as Erdogan sparks heated row with Greece

Greece should not have joined the Eurozone says Portillo

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EU foreign and defence ministers on Monday agreed a security strategy meant to boost the bloc’s military clout when war has returned to Europe, establishing a rapid reaction force with up to 5,000 troops to be swiftly deployed in a crisis.

“The threats are rising and the cost of inaction is clear,” the EU’s foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said in a statement, calling the document that sets out European ambitions in defence and security to be reached by 2030 a “guide to action”.

Work on the strategy started in 2020, before the pandemic, a chaotic withdrawal from Afghanistan and the Ukraine war.

After Russia’s invasion of Ukraine began on February 24, the EU toughened its language on Moscow.

“The EU needs to be able to protect its citizens and to contribute to international peace and security,” the bloc said in a statement.

“This is all the more important at a time when war has returned to Europe, following the unjustified and unprovoked Russian aggression against Ukraine, as well as of major geopolitical shifts.”

Russia has described its invasion as a “special military operation” to disarm Ukraine.

At the same time, the EU has made it clear it sees its efforts as complementary to the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) and not intended to compete with the US-led military alliance as an anchor of Western defence.

But the plans angered Ankara, with the Turkish foreign ministry lashing out at Greece and Cyprus over a paragraph mentioning geopolitical tensions in the region.

The paragraph in question read: “Finally, tensions in the Eastern Mediterranean remain, due to provocations and unilateral actions against EU member states and violations of sovereign rights in breach of international law, as well as the instrumentalisation of irregular migration, and have the potential to escalate quickly;

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“ensuring a stable and secure environment as well as a cooperative and mutually beneficial relationship, in line with the principle of good- neighbourly relations, is in the interest of both the EU and Turkey.”

Turkey accused Greece and Cyprus of pushing other EU member states to include Ankara in the plans.

They said Athens and Nicosia made “maximalist claims at their maritime borders, to the detriment of the persistent denial of the rights of Turkey and the Turkish Cypriots”.

Ankara added that with the new plans, the EU would become “part of the problem” instead of part of the solution in the Eastern Mediterranean.

Tensions between Greece and Turkey have been rising over disputed waters in the Mediterranean that contain fossil fuel reserves.

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The United States has pulled its support for a subsea pipeline that would supply natural gas from the eastern Mediterranean to Europe because it makes no economic sense, Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan was cited as saying in January.

Touted as an alternative to help ease Europe’s dependence on Russian gas, the 1,900-km (1,180-mile) project would initially be expected to carry 10 billion cubic metres of gas a year.

But it remains unclear whether the project will ever go ahead.

Germany is ready to provide the core of the EU’s new rapid reaction force in 2025, the year it is meant to become fully operational, Defence Minister Christine Lambrecht said in Brussels.

The force will replace the existing EU battlegroups that the bloc has had since 2007 but never used.

Plans for an overhaul gained traction after European countries struggled to handle the chaotic withdrawal from Kabul in August.

EU leaders are expected to sign off on the security strategy, referred to as the Strategic Compass, at a summit on Thursday and Friday in Brussels.

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