Bilateral ties developing

The Greek government and opposition are rightly scrutinizing events in Turkey and the neighbor’s prospects according to which political groupings emerge from the November 3 elections. Political and economic stabilization in Turkey will unquestionably benefit Turkey and its neighbors. Greece has every interest in the formation of a Turkish government that is a reliable interlocutor. The political scene in Turkey is confused and it is not certain new or existing political parties will enter the National Assembly. The participation of 23 parties inevitably augurs the formation of a coalition, given that no party will win outright. The combinations may be unexpected, since the taste of power unites highly contradictory political ideologies. Former Foreign Minister Ismael Cem’s New Turkey is the chief pro-Europe party, its basic foreign policy objective being accession to the European Union. Cem’s election as prime minister would be welcomed by Europe and the US, which already regards Turkey as «a model of democracy,» as American Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz recently said. The reform package that the Turkish National Assembly announced in August, and which it believes will pave the way for Turkish EU entry, met with restrained satisfaction in Brussels. It is in the interest of Greece, more than of any other country, that Ankara follow a steady path toward the EU, because in order to enter the EU Turkey must adopt and respect, in the conduct of bilateral relations, the codes of behavior which govern EU members. At Helsinki, Athens did not hinder Turkey’s candidacy for EU accession. But Turkey should not ask for any more help from Greece within the framework of bilateral relations for stabilization of its European itinerary, or from Brussels or Washington. In the runup to the elections, there can be no progress in bilateral relations. But there is a positive development, if officially confirmed, in the news that the Supreme Military Council of Turkey has decided to except Greece from the countries from which Turkey receives high-priority threats. However, in the Turkish armed forces’ White Book, the chapter titled «Differences Between Greece and Turkey» repeats all the neighboring country’s claims on Greece, which leaves no room for optimism in the solution of major issues. Ankara has still not responded to the Seville decisions on the European army, nor is it expected to act on the subject in the current political situation. As for Cyprus, the fifth round of talks between Greek-Cypriot President Glafcos Clerides and Turkish-Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash have proved fruitless. The assurances of Romano Prodi and Guenter Verheugen about Cyprus acceding to the EU regardless of whether the political issue has been solved, are encouraging and have received backing from a recent US Senate resolution. Nothing definitive can be said, however, before the summit meeting in Copenhagen, as there may be an impasse on the issue of the Common Agricultural Policy which might postpone the accession of the candidate countries. If the accession of Cyprus alone is postponed on any pretext, both the government and the opposition have stated that the Greek Parliament will not ratify the agreement for the accession of the other candidate countries. This extreme outcome might suit some of the larger EU member countries, because it would serve their interests, while the outcry over the blocking of enlargement would be blamed on Greece. (1) Ioannis Bourloyiannis-Tsangaridis is a retired ambassador.

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