Turkey has deployed gunboats: the EU has deployed Stefan Fule. Picture by Stefano Sopelza.
One of the most enduring - and convincing - arguments for the European Union has been the constant presence of superpowers. The US, China, Russia, and now are raft of others are all vying for the title, and European nations - federalist orthodoxy holds - are like pawns in a great game. Individually, They can be toyed with at will. Individually, they can be controlled, cajolled, enrounded, exploited, and, between the major players, they won't get a word in edgeways. The solution - apparently - is to pool their resources and their government. To integrate. To unify. It's consistently been a thorn in the side of advocates of national democracy: no-one can deny that Europe's GDP as a whole has been rapidly declining since the 70s, and that the economic might of the countries that comprise it has declined further still. It was an argument that seemed to have all the corners covered.
But Turkey seems to have found the chink in its armour. In light of the Cypriot state's ongoing quest for hydrocarbons, the Turkish government has deployed warships in the eastern Meditteranean and contacted the government of occupied Northern Cyprus about delineating a continental shelf - an illegal move, as the talking chessboard would say, given that Northern Cyprus has such a low degree of international recognition. The deployment of gunboats always contains an implicit threat of hostile action, and EU Enlargement Commissioner Stefan Fule - who is still tasked with doing all he can to get Turkey into the European Union as part of his job description - is spooked. He appeared at a press conference Wednesday, saying that there was no place for hostile intent, and that all sovereign states had the right to exploit natural resources within their Exclusive Economic Zone.
However, his speech exposes the limitations of the EU as a defender of European interests: other than remind the Turks that Cyprus is a sovereign nation - which it isn't, as far as Turkey is concerned - there was nothing he could do. If the EU is so powerless and impotent faced with the might of a Turkish gunboat, it is hardly going to be an effective guarantor of sovereignty against China and Russia. A far cry from the representation of a solid bloc of nation-states, the EU is just another layer of pointlessness on top of an already pointless gesture.