The turmoil in Turkey may reshape the whole region. For Greece, relations with our neighbor will depend greatly on the outcome of today’s events. The possibilities include: after his initial insecurity and many harsh declarations, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan chooses a policy of reconciliation in his country and achieves stability; a period of instability before new balances in society are achieved; further division and conflict inside Turkey.
In the positive scenario, Turkey will return on the course of closer ties with the European Union, a path from which it had strayed in recent years as Erdogan grew ever more authoritarian. The attempted coup could have served as a wake-up call, prompting Erdogan to try bridge divisions with various groups (from Kurds to young people seeking greater personal liberties). This would have been a significant step for Turkey and it would have benefited Greece as well. Athens believes that if Turkey abides by EU principles it will – by definition – be a good neighbor and differences between the two countries will be resolved. EU accession, however, does not appear a priority for Erdogan these days.
If Turkey is destabilized for some time, the fallout for Greece cannot be predicted. Despite the dangers, however, there may be some positive aspects. For example, with Greece being the most stable country in the region, our partners might look more favorably towards a reduction of our debt, seeing the need to provide support. Also, many tourists who might avoid Turkey could come to Greece. Investors – including Turks, perhaps – might also see Greece in a new light – if Athens made clear that it welcomed investments. On the other hand, Greece might lose many Turkish tourists, who in the past couple of years have exceeded 1 million annually. If there is any benefit for Greece, though, it will depend on Turkey achieving stability soon.
A long period of Turkish turmoil would be dangerous for the whole region. Even after more than a million refugees came to Greece via Turkey last year, our neighbor still hosts more than 2 million Syrian refugees. If conditions in Turkey worsened, the influx of people into Europe would be out of control. Also, further polarization in Turkey could inflame nationalist passions, worsening relations with Greece. The social, political and – consequently – economic instability would be conducive to a rise in organized crime on our borders.
It is in Greece’s interest that Turkey be stable and that it seek closer ties with the EU. In dealing with any problem that arises between the two countries, Greece must adhere strictly to international law and EU principles. In that way it can be a good neighbor and a pillar of stability. To the benefit of all.