The European Union’s public and firm support toward Greece and Cyprus is of historical significance. I’m not sure whether it will have any practical impact. This will become evident in the coming days and weeks. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is unpredictable and, unfortunately, Greek-Turkish ties have accumulated a lot of negative energy over the past few months.
However, it’s important to consider how Greece would be viewed by Turkey, and by every other regional foe, if the country were not a member of the European family. Late statesman Constantine Karamanlis has been rightfully vindicated. He believed that EU membership would protect Greece against a dual threat. One threat was the country itself. His experience taught him that every 20-30 years, we tend to release our bad self, to deregulate our political system, and get ourselves into trouble. At the same time, Karamanlis knew that Greece would be stronger – vis-a-vis friends as well as enemies – as part of a bigger group of nations with economic and geostrategic influence.
Because Greeks are, in the words of professor Kostas Kostis, “history’s spoiled children,” for a long time we were addicted to the benefits of EU membership. We ended up taking them for granted. We even reached the point, after the big economic crisis and the bankruptcy of the Greek republic, of questioning the point of our participation in the bloc. With no shortage of immaturity and naive passion, we were charmed by the vague promise of a different path that was bound to bring us closer to our southerly neighbors. Thankfully, we stepped back from that.
It’s worth keeping in mind that Europe is not only about economic and strategic gains, but also about obligations. There are tough days ahead of us. Turkey might push things to the extremes because it has entered a phase of instability, of unpredictability. If the worst came to the worst, it’s not certain that European support would bring immediate, practical results. Further alliances would be needed.
But let’s focus on today for a moment. And let’s realize how lucky we are to be in a relatively safe haven when storms are breaking out all around. The geopolitical implications would be devastating had history taken a different turn either 40 or three years ago.
P.S. Let us also reflect on how Cyprus’s accession to the EU was a wise and a great success for Hellenism. Because we have a tendency to forget this as well.