COMMENT

Front-line threats

By Alexis Papachelas

Ongoing developments in the country’s broader neighborhood are creating new challenges as well as threats in terms of the country’s interests. While the Middle East is turning into a big black hole, no one can predict where the rapidly developing situation in Iraq, the dismantling of countries such as Syria and Libya, and tension in Palestine will lead to.

A first reading points to Greece being strengthened geopolitically as it remains a safe haven in a highly volatile region. Nevertheless, there are serious dangers lurking and they cannot be ignored. The issue of illegal migration is taking on gigantic proportions and does not look like it can be contained. The desperation of relatively nearby countries in combination with their demographic data have created an explosive situation. We all feel the pain of those who crowd into dinghies along with their children in search of a better life at risk of drowning. However, neither Greece nor Europe could bear to be inundated by undocumented migrants, and soon the EU will have to deal with this matter in a serious way.

Another threat is the exportation of Islamic terrorism into Southern European countries. Thousands of people are being trained in tough guerrilla warfare while large numbers of weapons and explosives have gone missing. Security experts have recurring nightmares based on scenarios that foresee Western targets, or even cruise ships and hotels in countries such as Greece and Italy, coming under attack. Technology now offers unbelievable communication and operational opportunities to those who seek them.

At the same time Greece has taken a few major steps in recent years. The country has developed close ties with Israel in areas that are not very visible. Will this relationship be maintained? And how long can Greece ignore Israel’s self-destructive policy against the Palestinians, which has even enraged even the Israelis’ most passionate allies? There is no room for emotions in foreign policy, however, and Greece must safeguard its own interests above all else.

In any case, those who understand what’s going on in the region know the country stands on the front line of developments at this particular time. The response of a Western diplomat whose country is currently aiding Athens in its efforts to halt illegal immigration and to prevent international terrorist organizations from entering Greece was very telling when asked why his country was helping out to such an extent. “My dear fellow,” he said, “it’s much cheaper and efficient to deal with these threats right here and now before they actually reach our territory.”

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