Turkey’s accession raises questions about terms to be set, nature of the EU and Greece’s stance

The question of Turkey’s accession to the European Union is a major issue that is directly connected with Greece’s national interests. Since 1974, Greece’s neighbor has laid claims in the Aegean, it has questioned the legal status quo, refused to sign the Law of the Sea, and refused to accept the general jurisdiction of the International Court at The Hague. Turkey still maintains occupation troops in northern Cyprus where in 1983 it set up an illegal state. In addition, despite its desire to become a member of the European Union, Ankara now refuses to recognize the Republic of Cyprus, a full member of the European Union. This complex web of issues has made the entire course of Turkey’s accession process a subject of major interest to Greece. But there has never been an open, substantial debate in Greece’s political arena on the problems which a «European» Turkey could pose for specific Greek interests. The leaders of the two main political parties have always restricted themselves to an approach focusing on the primary issues. They generally claim that if Turkey joins the community of Europeans, it will be forced to gradually tone down its aggressive stance toward Greece and Cyprus. They say that Turkey will be tamed by having to adapt to Europe’s acquis communautaire, which will entail specific obligations. Apart from that, the major parties have carried out no real evaluation of the process for Turkey’s future accession to the EU, even though Turkey’s political leaders do not appear willing to change their minds about observing international law, or even to tone down their approach to the problems they are creating for Greece and Cyprus. Nevertheless, in a few days’ time – on December 17 – at a European Union summit in Brussels, a decision will be made to set a date to begin accession talks with Turkey. The 25 member states will determine the main conditions for that process, resulting in a text that Greece will naturally be called upon to co-sign. Kathimerini asked two former foreign ministers of Greece, Karolos Papoulias and Antonis Samaras, and a former defense minister, Gerassimos Arsenis, for their views on the background to this week’s summit. Over the course of this week, Kathimerini will continue the debate with views from other veteran diplomats.