After the previous decade when its once strong influence in the region waned due to the financial meltdown, Greece is now eyeing a return to the Balkans given the new geopolitical realities that have unfolded in recent years.
The settlement of diplomatic problems such as the name issue with North Macedonia, but also the opening of European membership prospects for the countries of the Western Balkans, have paved the way for Greece to invest its diplomatic capital.
Apart from its opposition to Turkey’s reach in its neighborhood, Greece is also seeking a role given the American position that the Balkan region should be included in the line of restraint of Russian (and Chinese) influence.
Moreover, there is a common concern among Western and moderate Muslim countries of the Middle East and North Africa about the rise of radical Islam in the region.
The special involvement of Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias in the Balkans since the day he took office also shows that Athens is moving forward on the basis of a new plan for the region. In recent months in particular, Greece has increased its Balkan diplomacy, and with partners.
For one, Greece’s well-established convergence of interests with the United Arab Emirates (UAE) also extends to the Balkans. For the Arabs, the attempt to unite the Muslim element in the region by Turkey is seen not only as an effort to revive the Ottoman vision, but the promotion of a divisive version of Islam.
What’s more, the relationship between Dendias and his UAE counterpart Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan is seen as a key pillar in this unfolding Balkan policy.
Apart from the UAE, the Saudis are also interested in the region, as is Egypt which always closely monitors any projects related to the promotion of Sunni theology.