The European Parliament has shown unity in its condemnation of the rising tensions between Turkey and the Republic of Cyprus in the dispute over oil and gas exploration. MEPs have condemned Turkey's threats over military and naval intervention and stressed that any threat against one member state was a threat against the whole EU.
Several MEPs underlined the growing importance of Turkey as a major player in the region and highlighted the necessity of good neighbourly relations. Lawmakers emphasised that Turkey, as a candidate for the EU membership, must recognise Cyprus as a member of the EU.
As a part of the discussion, some MEPs underlined that Cyprus has the right to explore for natural resources in its own economic zone while some suggested that both communities on the island should benefit from exploitation of natural resources.
Some lawmakers strongly objected to Commissioner Füle's call for restraint from both sides, expressing their views that it should apply only to Turkey.
In an unlikely event of an armed conflict between Turkey and Cyprus, EU countries would be faced with an unprecedented legal conundrum, divided between their allegiance to the trans-Atlantic defence alliance and principles of solidarity and unity within the EU. From the theoretical point of view, Article 5 of the North-Atlantic treaty would compel NATO members to defend member state – Turkey – from a non-NATO attack. On the other hand, EU countries would need to stand behind the EU member, defending the integrity of the Union and principle of solidarity.
Even without speculation over the possibility of at least one of the countries that belong to both groupings – the EU and the NATO – launching a retaliatory attack on Turkey, further complicating the hypothetical situation, European lawmakers do not appear to have considered their political statements in depth.
The political ramifications of any Turkish naval or military intervention in Cyprus at this stage would be very serious but is at present purely hypothetical – however, the very fact that the country is prepared to use such threats sends a serious signal to EU policymakers.