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Editorial: Cyprus needs an EEZ Navy

11 December, 2013 | Posted By: Financial Mirror

The recent provocation by the Turkish research vessel Barbarosa off the south-western coast of Cyprus has shown, once again, how vulnerable our navy-less island is, while our “friends” in the EU do not dare raise a finger to scold Ankara for its actions. With Catherine Ashton as foreign relations supremo, we do not expect anything else from Brussels. After all, her agenda is to look after foreign relations of the few and not the whole of the EU28.
Which brings us back to the conclusion that, once again, we are on our own, just as the ‘European solidarity’ kicked in before and after the fumbled Eurogroup meeting in March.
On the issue of defending the sovereign rights of Cyprus and the Exclusive Economic Zone where our future revenue resources lie, perhaps it’s time that we started talking the same language as Turkey. Although we cannot match their west-sponsored military might, we could, however, make some tactical moves that would oblige our EU partners and the Athens presidency from January 1 to take ‘affirmative action’.
Greece and Britain cut back on their navy patrols of pirate-infested seas off the Horn of Africa last year due to budgetary constraints, with one estimate of maintaining a Greek Navy warship in the area put at about 5 mln euros a month.
Considering the need to have some say in what goes on in our EEZ, and within the spirit of privatising public services, the Cyprus government should consider outsourcing patrols of our offshore potential gasfields to the Hellenic Navy and undertaking the annual cost of 60 mln euros to have our own fully-manned frigate in the area.
The last time that we tried to show some muscle was when the late Glafcos Clerides devised a cunning plan to bring the S300 system to defend the island’s air space against provocations by the Turkish air force. At the time, the former president said in an interview recently, Greece told him to back down, hence the missiles ended up on Crete.
The only risk here is that now that we claim to be part of the ‘European family’, our partners would have to take sides and we know that the alleged defenders of democracy and human rights in Europe would go with Turkey. But, at least, we can seem to be defending our sovereign rights and it would also be an opportunity to ask our recently-found friends in Israel, who also have a vested interest in defending gasfields in the East Med, to decide: “Are you with us or against us?”