Alexis Tsipras, Greece’s leftist opposition leader, has accused the New Democracy government of “inertia and appeasement” toward Turkey. The term “appeasement” is particularly loaded as it was the name given to Britain’s policy in the 1930s of allowing Hitler to expand German territory unchecked. It insinuates a sellout of national interests, or at least a passive demeanor.
It was sad to see Tsipras, a man whose party suffered the exact same criticism from conservative circles on the Macedonia name issue, making the same mistake: The SYRIZA chief has chosen to reap short-term political gains in the crucial area of Greek-Turkish relations and has decided to do so at a very sensitive time which requires cross-party consensus.
Indeed, we are seeing a rise in Ankara’s aggressive rhetoric, US President Donald Trump supporting its policies, and excessive toleration on Europe’s part (even in the wake of the maritime boundaries agreement signed between Turkey and Libya’s internationally recognized government). At the same time, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is exploiting the migration issue to blackmail the European Union, Berlin and Athens.
It is true that foreign policy developments have come as a rude awakening for Greece’s conservative government; not only in Greek-Turkish relations but also on the Macedonia name issue and the migration problem. It suddenly realized that the nationalist rallies, the patriotic chest-thumping and the arrogant belief that immigration would somehow come to a halt as soon as it assumed power had exhausted their purpose as soon as SYRIZA was unseated.
Tsipras and SYRIZA are aware of this. Because they went through it. This was probably one of the reasons they lost power.
Nevertheless, Tsipras chose to level his allegations against the government a few hours before Mitsotakis was to meet Erdogan and while the possibility of a cross-party leaders meeting remained open. He thereby preempted the council’s objective, which was the display of national solidarity vis-a-vis Ankara.
It was evident during the years of the financial crisis and it has become even more evident since that Greek parties are unable to forge consensus even when major interests are at stake – from our membership of the eurozone to stability on national issues. The return of the two-party system after the last elections could further undermine the chances of consensus as polarization is fodder for both contenders.