The future of European security following the Russian invasion of Ukraine was the main focus of a conversation between former socialist PASOK minister Evangelos Venizelos and Tom Ellis, Editor in Chief of Kathimerini English Edition, held as part of the Delphi Economic Forum on Wednesday.
Venizelos, who is also a professor of Constitutional Law at the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, discussed issues relating to the ongoing situation in Ukraine, particularly the reaction of Greek society, but also took the opportunity to stress that this is the time to have a difficult conversation with Turkey and reach a final settlement over any Mediterranean resources.
Venizelos spoke on the issues of exploiting potential resources in the Mediterranean, including questions of declaring an exclusive economic zone (EEZ). He shared his belief that it is now or never for the exploitation of the resources but specified that he is talking about resources in the Mediterranean and not within the Aegean proper as it could impact the touristic appeal of Greece’s islands. He also touched upon the issue of territorial waters, stating that one does not have to unilaterally expand all their territorial waters to 12 nautical miles but can do so in the Mediterranean to match Turkey’s claimed waters. In his view, this is the time to do so in certain areas while keeping the Aegean open to international shipping.
“This is the final opportunity for dialogue, after 47 years of inertia,” he said, suggesting that this is the time to open a conversation to settle Greek differences with Erdogan. In his belief, Greece has always waited for the right time to open a conversation where it may find itself with the upper hand, but he finds the Greek position keeps on deteriorating.
Venizelos stated that once again “Europe was not ready” for the Russian invasion of Ukraine, with many disbelieving the claims of an impending Russian action by the United States intelligence community. Additionally, Venizelos pointed out that all aggressive actions of the Russian Federation have targeted states that are not members of the NATO alliance, a fact that he believes disproves the oft-mentioned claim that it is the eastern expansion of NATO that forms the prime motivation of Russia’s invasion. In fact, Venizelos believes that not only did the West not act threateningly to Russia, but that it has for many years followed a policy of appeasing Russia.
Venizelos shared his belief that the invasion occurred because Russia may have seen this as its last window of opportunity to act as a superpower. However, Venizelos stated that Russia did not properly evaluate the resolve of the Ukrainian people and the United States, in comparison to the stance of Europe. However, Venizelos warned of internal issues of the West that could fragment the unified front currently presented to Russian aggression. He particularly singled out the upcoming elections in France, and the possibility of a second Trump presidency and its effects on the world order.
Finally, Venizelos addressed the high support enjoyed by Russia and the policies of President Vladimir Putin in Greece. Venizelos dismissed the claim that this is tied solely to religion, rather looking to other causes including an atavistic pro-Russian sentiment that has existed in Greek society since the early days of the modern state. However, he stressed the importance of Greece standing with the West and praised the decision to send symbolic assistance to Ukraine. In his view the decision of the government to do so, reaffirms the value of representative democracy as throughout Greece’s history, as now, its governments have often had to make important decisions that have been contrary to what may be the temporary prevailing mood in society.