Greece’s foreign policy will soon have to face two of its most persistent challenges: the Cyprus question and the name dispute with the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM). Both will return to the forefront and the chorus of fear-mongering conspiracy theorists has already begun its lamentations. They like to perpetuate this narrative of a poor little Greece that’s fallen victim to yet another conspiracy at the time that it is in the midst of a deep crisis.
Fortitude is what’s needed right now, from both the government and the opposition, so that these two issues do not become entangled in domestic political games. It has been to the detriment of the country whenever this has happened in the past because rather than caring about the nation’s interests, politicians cared more about their own political survival.
Regarding the Cyprus issue, a fresh crisis looms after two major companies stated their intention to begin exploratory drilling in Cyprus’s exclusive economic zone in July. Optimists believe this won’t be affected by negotiations on the Cyprus problem. Pessimists worry the companies will postpone their operations if there is no deal since they will be concerned about Turkish objections.
Some in Nicosia are convinced Washington will completely support Cypriot interests because the secretary of state once served as the head of Exxon-Mobil, which is one of the two companies involved. They are clearly ignorant of how things work in the US.
Within the next few weeks, we’ll see if Ankara is ready to make the concessions necessary for a deal that will also be acceptable to the Greek-Cypriot people, as a repeat of the rejection of an agreement in a referendum must be avoided at all cost. We are very close to the point of no return when it comes to the Cyprus problem, meaning the point at which it is declared unresolvable. If you had to bet on it, your money would be better placed against a resolution being reached; that’s been the safe bet over the last 43 years. From then on, the familiar blame game will be played.
Regarding the name dispute with FYROM, it is clearly in our interest to reach a solution that won’t tarnish Greece’s or the neighboring state’s honor. Given the internal political challenges he’s facing, Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras has little room to maneuver. The new government in Skopje is trying to show that something has changed in the post-Gruevski era but tangible actions are needed so we can turn the page on this tired issue.
July is looking like a hot month for Greek diplomacy and we will face whatever “conspiracy” is being brewed wisely and cohesively.