The Greek political system and state apparatus have supposedly learned a lot from the 1996 Imia crisis, when Greece and Turkey came to the brink of armed conflict over the uninhabited Aegean islets.
However, 22 years on, certain things have still not changed. A basic systemic flaw has been the absence of a small yet flexible national security council to coordinate the prime minister’s office with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Defense Ministry, the National Intelligence Agency (EYP), and other security services. Rather, we have a diplomatic counselor at the Maximos Mansion, some military officers and the Council on Foreign Policy and Defense (KYSEA), which convenes only for some formal decisions.
“But everybody speaks with everybody,” someone may argue. But that’s not enough, and this is exactly what the Greek system lacks: a set of procedures which are faithfully adhered to, and systematic preparation for times of crisis.
When collective decision-making takes place in a haphazard manner and depends on who speaks with whom, it means that the process is seriously flawed.
Recent months have seen many incidents and aggressive actions. One wonders whether anyone has examined other scenarios, in the presence of experts, so that they are prepared for a crisis. The most convenient solution for politicians is to put the blame on the military leadership. We have seen it happen in the past. They stay away from operational decisions, so that they can later say that the military “blew it.”
This is a very difficult and dangerous period for Greece. We all hope that there will not be another crisis, in the Aegean or Cyprus. However, the possibility of fresh tension is high.
Athens must seriously consider what its first moves will be in the event of a crisis. Because in the case of the Greek soldiers who were detained after crossing the border into Turkey last week, the system simply did not work. This is not the time for criticism, but someone will have to seriously examine what went wrong and who was responsible.
Greece as a state does not have a culture of security; we unfortunately prefer to take it as it comes. Our needs and the threats against us will at some point force us to take things more seriously. The sooner this happens, the better. Let’s hope that no serious crisis or great damage occurs in the meantime.