Euroforce opens Pandora’s box

The Lord is sometimes in a mood for jokes. As in the case of Abraham, from whom He requested a human sacrifice: his own son. But at the last minute – according at least to filmmaker Woody Allen’s short story, «The Scrolls» – the Lord stayed Abraham’s hand and said: «How couldst thou do such a thing?» And Abraham said, «But thou hast said…» «Never mind what I have jokingly said. No sense of humor. I can’t believe it!» Sadly, the possible satanic cult follower Christos Kolovos from Ioannina, who also heard extraterrestrial voices urging him to commit human sacrifices, lent credence to them and murdered an 11-year-old girl. More recent voices coming from US intelligence agencies suggest that another Al Qaeda terrorist operation could be in the works, while Ankara’s Transportation Ministry said on Saturday that they were carefully examining rumors of a possible terrorist attack on Turkey that might involve civil aviation. It is an old technique. «The terrorists are coming» squads are mobilized so that they can continue to frighten people into obeying their rulers even when the «purported plot has not advanced beyond the discussion stage.» This week, Greek opposition leaders will listen to the briefing PM Costas Simitis will be giving them on recent developments on the Cyprus issue and the formation of the European rapid reaction force, which is part of the ESDP, or the European Security and Defense Policy. Both issues are tightly interwoven – despite Defense Minister’s Yiannos Papantoniou assurances to the contrary. The Euroarmy, as the Greek media has promptly baptized the ESDP, commits EU nations to deploying up to 60,000 soldiers by 2003 at 60 days’ notice, for crisis-management operations. It would draw upon NATO military capabilities and is, more or less, intended to undertake particular tasks in situations where NATO – meaning the United States – chooses not to become engaged. Whose orders would the troops obey? If one considers that the ESDP could be described as NATO’s companion – certainly not its competitor – the answer is simple. It follows then that Brussels will never take over from Washington as the world’s defense center. And that’s that. Treading on a well-worn path (compare with the papacy’s claims to universalism with its wooing of other religions), Washington eagerly supports the ESDP, but only on the condition that it operates within NATO, and is separable, but not separate, from the alliance. Now, the problem for Athens is that its enemy Turkey, a staunch European pillar of the Atlantic alliance, will be on terms of equality with Greece. Greeks justly fear that once Turkey opens – and enters – the ESDP box, one never knows what will jump out. PM Costas Simitis, who is far from being a Euroskeptic, says that the ESDP cannot be accepted by Greece. The danger that in such an eventuality Greek soldiers will be forced to march to Ankara’s tune is all too apparent. Even though Greece risks being isolated among its European Union partners on the Euroforce issue, Costas Simitis keeps stubbornly insisting that the Ankara agreement between Turkey and the USA-UK is unacceptable since Greece has to defend its national interests. Some months ago, tough negotiations were held in Ankara and London, with the USA standing in for NATO and British officials representing the EU. At the time, the talks ended with the somewhat unclear agreement that the proposed EU force under the ESDP could not be used against a NATO member, and also that the EU could only use NATO assets with the precise and full agreement of all NATO members. All EU member countries accepted this arrangement, except Greece. Athens argued that a non-EU country should not be in a position to influence EU military decisions. Yet, as has already been mentioned, NATO comes first. Let’s not kid ourselves with terms such as Euroforce. Many Europeans might resist the notion of wholehearted, unambiguous adherence to NATO, but there is, quite simply, no alternative. So, what happens if Athens continues insisting? Well-informed Turkish Star columnist Semih Idiz hinted on Saturday at blackmail: «If Greece continues to reject the Ankara agreement and exercise its veto, Ankara will soon make a concrete display to the EU of its determination on this issue. «The place to make its stand will be Macedonia, where NATO is to withdraw its forces and transfer military responsibility to the EU. According to sources close to the European Parliament, Foreign Minister Ismail Cem conveyed Turkey’s determination to the EU side during a one-and-a-half-hour meeting he held with Turkey-EU Joint Parliament Committee Co-Chairman De Heer Joost Ladendijk. «In short, unless Greece lifts its veto on the current ESDP agreement, Ankara is preparing to prevent the command transfer of the international force in Macedonia from NATO to the EU.» Getting the ESDP right seems to be an essential goal in its own right that requires political consensus among the different parties in Greece. Consequently, it is now more necessary than ever for Prime Minister Simitis to make common cause with opposition leaders. This will supposedly happen this week. Surely much would be solved if only Turkey – whose first loyalty would always be to the United States – joined the EU. There is much to be said for this solution, despite the naysayers who bemoan Turkey’s EU adherence. Yet realpolitik – a German term – makes this a distant dream. In a blunt speech last week, Edmund Stoiber, the conservative challenger for the German chancellorship, whose alliance with the Christian Democrats has a 10-point lead in the polls and who is the front runner in the battle to defeat Gerhard Schroeder, the current Social Democrat chancellor (who does not, I repeat, NOT dye his hair) in Germany’s September general election, spelt out his strong opposition to Turkey becoming a full member. «We are of the opinion that Turkey is an important partner in NATO, and we should maintain particularly friendly relations with it. But that does not mean it must be a member of the EU.»