Turkish military intervention in northern Syria has begun - and for the EU, it could end in a nightmare. In the region, which is important for Europe's security, a new, bloody war threatens, which could trigger a new wave of refugees towards the EU. But the 28 EU states failed to agree Wednesday to warn Turkey against the invasion - because Hungary vetoed the declaration, diplomats from several EU countries told SPIEGEL.
On Tuesday evening, representatives of member countries prepared a text to warn Turkey of the consequences of military intervention. An invasion, it was said in the draft, would undermine efforts to end the civil war in Syria. According to diplomats, the EU also wanted to denounce Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's plan to relocate one million Syrian refugees from Turkey to a 35-kilometer buffer zone in northern Syria.
The Turkish Armed Forces, together with the Syrian National Army, just launched #OperationPeaceSpring against PKK / YPG and Daesh terrorists in northern Syria. Our mission is to prevent the creation of a terror corridor across our southern border, and to bring peace to the area.- Recep Tayyip Erdoğan (@RTErdogan) 9 October 2019
On Wednesday morning, the declaration in Brussels was to be approved at a meeting of the Political Security Committee (PSC), composed of ambassadors from EU countries. But it did not get to that. Hungary, which had apparently previously requested an extension of time, was the only country to veto - according to EU diplomats, for no good reason. The statement has been previously weakened, even at the instigation of other countries. Thus, Turkey should be threatened in the event of an invasion no consequences.
Turkish invasion has rendered warning obsolete
In the hours after that, the drama continued. On early Wednesday afternoon, Hungary is said to have been under strong pressure from other states to be ready to explain itself in principle. But then the news of the beginning of the Turkish invasion burst into the negotiations. The warning to Ankara was over. Whether an agreement on a reformulated text would succeed, was still unclear in the late afternoon. Diplomats also considered a declaration of all other 27 EU countries without Hungary possible. The Hungarian government did not want to comment on the process so far.
Among the other member states, Budapest's actions are incomprehensible - to put it mildly. "It can not be the case that a country like Hungary repeatedly blocks the EU on its own," says Luxembourg Foreign Minister Jean Asselborn. "If we can not even come up with such a statement together, we're not even a dwarf in foreign affairs, then we're nonexistent."
EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker was left only to call on Turkey for moderation. "I urge Turkey and other actors to act with restraint and stop the mission that has already started," said Juncker in the Brussels EU Parliament. If Turkey establishes a "security zone" in Syria, the EU will not participate financially.
Weber threatens Turkey with consequences
Manfred Weber, head of the Christian Democratic EPP Group in the European Parliament, even indirectly threatened Ankara with economic sanctions - not only because of the "very worrying" military action in Syria, but also because of the EU's failure to comply with the refugee pact and the controversial gas drilling off Cyprus. "We have to ask the question as to whether the good economic relations between the EU and Turkey can be maintained in the long term," said the CSU politician in the plenary session of the European Parliament. The EU is ready for partnership. But if Turkey did not practice it, Ankara would have to know "that it will also have consequences".
Left-wing leader Martin Schirdewan and Greens MEP Hannah Neumann described Turkey's invasion of Syria as a violation of international law. "Erdogan abuses the fate of Syrian refugees as a lever against the EU," says Neumann. It was "frustrating" that the EU states could not agree on a common position so far. "What it needs now is a clear condemnation of the invasion and an arms export stop to Turkey," said Neumann.
However, this could be difficult because foreign policy is one of the policy areas where the EU can only decide unanimously - which is why individual countries can block decisions at will. "It shows once again that the unanimity principle restricts the EU's ability to act in foreign policy," says Neumann. Similarly, Luxembourg Foreign Minister Asselborn comments: "The EU must finally introduce the principle of majority voting in foreign policy."
This goal is also pursued by the future EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen. Whether she will achieve it, however, is questionable. "To end the unanimity obligation," Asselborn notes, "unfortunately, a unanimous decision is necessary."
Video: Turkey offensive threatens security in Europe