EU blacklists two Turkish nationals over Mediterranean drilling

The European Union blacklisted two Turkish nationals as retaliation over Ankara’s energy drilling off Cyprus in a move that has more political symbolism than economic punch.

The European Council on Thursday imposed restrictive measures on two individuals – a travel ban to the EU and an asset freeze – in relation to Turkey’s unauthorised drilling activities in the eastern Mediterranean.

The two people sanctioned by the EU on Thursday are Mehmet Ferruh Akalin, Vice-President and member of the Board of Directors of the Turkish Petroleum Corporation (TPAO). He is the head of TPAO’s Exploration, R&D Centre and Information Technologies Departments, and Ali Coscun Namoglu, Deputy Director of the Exploration Department of TPAO.

Moreover, EU nationals and entities are not allowed to transfer funds to these two listed individuals.

“These persons are responsible for or involved in planning, directing and implementing offshore hydrocarbon exploration activities in the eastern Mediterranean which have not been authorised by the Republic of Cyprus,” the EU statement reads.

According to the EU Council, “those unauthorised drilling activities were carried out by the TPAO drilling vessel Yavuz off Cyprus between July and September 2019, the Yavuz drilling in Cyprus’ EEZ between October 2019 and January 2020, drilling by the Fatih in the island’s EEZ in close proximity to its territorial sea, since November 2019, and drilling by the Fatih in a western area of Cyprus’ EEZ between May and November 2019.

“TPAO has also announced further planned drilling activities to be carried out, without the authorisation of the Republic of Cyprus, by the TPAO drilling vessel Yavuz in an area of the exclusive economic zone of the Republic of Cyprus notified by it to the United Nations and delimited in agreements with Egypt and Israel, between January and May 2020,” the Council decision said.

A framework for restrictive measures in response to Turkey’s illegal drilling activities in the eastern Mediterranean was set up in November 2019, after the Council had repeatedly expressed its concerns and strongly condemned the drilling activities in various sets of conclusions, including the European Council conclusions of March 22, 2018 and of June 20, 2019.