Respecting international law in the Eastern Mediterranean

Respecting international law in the Eastern Mediterranean

On 9 September 2020, Members of the European Parliament (MEPs): Vangelis Meimarakis, Stelios Kympouropoulos, Maria Spyraki, Elissavet Vozemberg-Vrionidi, Manolis Kefalogiannis, Anna-Michelle Asimakopoulou and Georgios Kyrtsos of the Group of the European People’s Party (Christian Democrats), posed a written parliamentary question to the Vice-President of the Commission and High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Josep Borrell:

“Serious questions are being raised about the public position of NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg. In an interview, Mr Stoltenberg contended that, because of the region in which it is situated, Turkey had every right to shoot down the Russian fighter jet that violated its airspace for less than 30 seconds in 2015. At the same time, Turkey repeatedly violates Greece’s airspace. More specifically, when quizzed by CNN reporter Hala Gorani, Mr Stoltenberg acknowledged that Turkey was entitled to protect its sovereign rights by shooting down the Russian fighter jet. Yet when the journalist then pointed out that Greece’s Prime Minister had said that Turkey violates Greek airspace, Mr Stoltenberg argued that Turkey, because of the tension at its borders with Syria and Iraq, is in a special situation.

In view of the above, can Vice-President / High Representative say:

1. Does the EU accept that a violation of the airspace of one of its Member States by a third country is a ‘special situation’?

2. Is the position of NATO’s Secretary General in line with the European acquis?

3. What is the EU’s response to the attempts by NATO’s Secretary General to justify violations of international law by Turkey?”

On 1 February 2021, High Representative/Vice-President Borrell responded on behalf of the European Commission stating: “The European Union (EU) has reaffirmed, on many occasions, and most recently at the European Council on 15-16 October 2020 its full support to and solidarity with Greece.

On 15 May 2020, the Foreign Ministers of the EU condemned the escalation of Turkey’s violations of the Greek national airspace, including overflights of inhabited areas, and territorial sea, in violation of international law.

The EU has repeatedly stated that delimitation of exclusive economic zones and the continental shelf should be addressed through dialogue and negotiation in good faith and in full respect of international law (see, inter alia, answers to written questions E-004015/2020 and E-004366/2020). Turkey must respect the law of the sea, and in particular the sovereignty and the sovereign rights of all EU Member States over their territorial sea, contiguous zone, exclusive economic zone and continental shelf, including in case of islands. Moreover, Turkey must refrain from violating the sovereignty of EU Member States, including their air space.

In addition, the Council has underlined that it continues to expect Turkey to unequivocally commit to good neighbourly relations, international agreements and to the peaceful settlement of disputes, having recourse, if necessary, to the International Court of Justice.

The EU remains in close contact with the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) in the context of the coordinated efforts towards sustainable de-escalation in the Eastern Mediterranean. In this respect, the establishment of the bilateral military de-confliction mechanism in NATO designed to reduce the risk of incidents and accidents in the Eastern Mediterranean is a welcome development.”


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