Difficult autumn on the way for Greek diplomacy

Greece’s Foreign Ministry will be in for one of its most difficult periods ever this coming fall and winter. It has been a long time since there have been so many pending issues calling for attention within such a short space of time. Apart from foreign policy issues that have gone unresolved for decades, new ones have cropped up to be added to the agenda of Foreign Minister Petros Molyviatis and his deputies. – Turkey’s accession to the European Union: Greece supports Turkey’s desire to join the EU, but feels the issue is by no means a simple one, and calls for special handling, in cooperation with both other EU member states and Nicosia, particularly if the Cypriot government decides to link its stance to Ankara’s attitude to the Cyprus issue and takes a negative view. There is also the possibility that Turkey’s application will be rejected by the EU, due to other issues independent of the Cyprus problem. This would have clear negative repercussions on the political landscape and on Turkey’s behavior, with everything that entails for bilateral relations. – Greek-Turkish relations: These are focused on the delimitation of the Aegean continental shelf, along with other differences of opinion regarding the two countries’ common borders – that is, the claims Ankara has raised against Greece, including the unpleasant incident some years ago over the Imia islets and discussions that led to recent alleged statements by Greek Defense Minister Spilios Spiliotopoulos regarding Greece’s air space. – Cyprus issue: According to some sources, talks aimed at resolving the problem might be resumed before the end of the year. In that case, the plan proposed by UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, which was rejected in a referendum last April, would once again be raised, Nicosia would have to reach a decision and on that basis, and Athens would plan its own tactics and strategy. * EU policy toward the Turkish-occupied zone in Cyprus: This is a discussion and decision-making process on the European Commission’s settlement plan aimed at supporting the Turkish Cypriots, and bringing about an end to their isolation because of their positive stance toward the Annan plan. – The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia: According to diplomatic sources, the problem of the name of the neighboring country will be raised again in September, in the form of talks under the aegis of the UN. – The Netherlands’ EU presidency: Greece will find itself in deep water with the European Union over a number of other issues that are not of particular interest to Greece, as the Netherlands’ six-month leadership of the EU is not expected to be one of the most moderate. Deputy Minister Yiannis Valinakis, responsible for EU affairs, will have a number of pressing obligations during that period. – NATO: After the Olympic Games, the question of Greece’s increased involvement in developing NATO operations is expected to be raised. Until now, increased domestic demands because of security preparations for the Games allowed Greece to be excused from further supporting NATO operations with Greek troops. So decisions will need to be taken that will clearly have political repercussions on the domestic front. – EXPO 2008: One of the challenges for the Greek government, particularly the Foreign Ministry, is Greece’s application to host EXPO 2008 in Thessaloniki. It is an international event of great importance, similar to that of the Olympics, according to Foreign Ministry staff. – Overseas Greeks: A plan is being drafted for in-depth changes to policy regarding overseas Greeks. It is a new issue of strategic importance that requires immediate, effective attention, according to Deputy Minister Panayiotis Skandalakis. Decisions are expected to have been taken on this front by November.