Alexis Papachelas ALEXIS PAPACHELAS

Militant sound bites are dangerous

COMMENT

We have entered an extremely difficult phase of our relationship with Turkey.

We have played our cards well as a country but the game is a very difficult one and it’s hard to predict what your next hand will be.

It is positive that we have a solid military leadership at the helm that has learned a lot from the Imia fiasco in 1996. But allow me make one appeal for the coming days and weeks. To Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, the leader of the opposition and all of us that play some role in shaping public opinion.

Whenever the country’s prime minister, opposition leader or media have made fatal errors, Greece has found itself up against the perfect storm. 

A classic example of this, but not necessary a timely one, was the war with Turkey in 1897, which we lost. 

What would I tell the prime minister? Not to watch TV or read the papers or news sites on the internet when he is dealing with delicate and crucial issues. Not to raise the bar above what is reasonable and feasible. And to ensure that relevant government officials only speak when they have to.

“Militant” sound bites bring votes, but this is dangerous.

In general, when you confuse foreign policy with domestic policy, matters go awry. That is why you always need professional advisers and operators whose duties do not require them to weigh the political cost.

I would advise the opposition leader to strike a less defiant tone and not to lead the country down a dangerous spiral with incendiary rhetoric and maximalist positions. 

OK, he may be right about some of the over-the-top criticism of the Prespes name agreement with North Macedonia last year, but there is far more at stake here for our national interests.

Irresponsible opposition to foreign policy can cause huge damage at crucial moments.

Alexis Tsipas is on a slippery path. 

To all of us in the media, I say we should be calmer, we should understand the problems and explain them without hyperbole, and we shouldn’t ignore fundamental notions.

I would also add that it would be good to have retired army generals on air who know what they’re talking about and don’t dream about becoming MPs or want to make an impression at their local cafe.

In other words, it’s a time of responsibility for all of us and a time when country comes before votes, polls and TV ratings.

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