Greece will shun veto, but may raise the bar higher and higher for Ankara

Turkey can expect a number of «small» vetos rather than one «large» one from Greece on its road to European Union membership, if the EU’s 25 members give it the green light on December 17. This is the double message Athens is sending to Ankara as Turkey faces the most crucial stage of its effort to begin EU accession talks. In fact, it is a statement of good intentions, since the Greek government is fully aware of the extreme difficulties its neighbor state is having in the political corridors of Europe. Apart from anything else, the subject of discussion in many circles is whether the final summit text will include the term «accession» alongside the term «negotiations,» that is, whether Turkey will eventually become a full EU member or enter into a «special relationship» with Europe. On the other hand, it is a clear warning that Turkey’s persistence with threats and tension in bilateral relations cannot but negatively affect the already long years of its adjustment to the EU in the future. In practice, it means that Athens will be raising the bar higher and higher as Turkey comes under the European microscope, to the point where it will be almost impossible to scale. In fact, diplomatic sources believe that this is quite likely, given both the situation prevailing in Turkey and the ground it has to cover before achieving European standards, as well as Europeans’ own strong reservations over Ankara. The EU has decided to approve Turkey’s future in Europe in gradual stages, so if any complication arises during one of the stages, it will not be possible to continue. Moreover, the green light from the 25 member states will be a political one, given at summit level. The Greek government believes this is also a response to the strong criticism it has been subjected to at home over its policy choices. PASOK has accused the ruling New Democracy party of abandoning what was decided on at Helsinki and of agreeing to a decision in December to allow Turkey’s EU accession talks to go ahead unconditionally and without a prior resolution of Greek-Turkish differences in exchange. The ruling party leadership believes that the above-mentioned strategy, pursued within the EU framework, can lead to positive results on the bilateral plane. «Whatever is European is also Greek and whatever is Greek is also European» during Turkey’s accession talks, according to Foreign Ministry spokesman Giorgos Koumoutsakos. It is also being pointed out that not only is there no alternative (a Greek veto in December would have a high cost both for the country and the region), but there is no convincing counterargument. That is, those who have been loudly calling for a new Helsinki agreement on December 17 have not suggested what Greece should do if Turkey proves to be inflexible at the summit. Interestingly, this question was not even answered behind closed doors when, according to sources, the foreign minister asked the opposition parties at a National Foreign Policy Council meeting whether he should say «No.»