The agreement between Greece and France “on establishing a strategic relationship for cooperation in defense and security,” which was ratified by Parliament Thursday after the predictably heated exchanges between the prime minister and the leader of the opposition, is important not only because it determines relations between the two countries and between them and Turkey; it also forces the European Union and NATO to shoulder their responsibilities.
After years of underestimating the danger of a Turkey unbound by treaties and rules, both organizations must now decide whether they will confirm their fundamental principles or whether they will remain hostage to Turkey’s arbitrary actions.
The EU and NATO treaties ought to cover every member-state’s need to feel safe from military threats. The summer of 2020, however, proved that the situation in our region is unpredictable. At a moment when the EU ought to have defended its “principled pragmatism” and its own interests, by supporting Greece and Cyprus, it showed that it was incapable of placing limits on Turkey.
Appeasement pushes Ankara into ever more extreme positions, whereas a unanimous, strong stand by the EU and NATO would have forced Turkey to consider the costs of its behavior and would not have raised the need for a Greek-French agreement.
A serious factor in all this is that despite the “Europeanization” of Greece’s foreign policy over the past years, Athens has not convinced all its partners that their interests are aligned with those of Greece.
The fear of domestic reactions in Greece to any possible agreement with Turkey and the reluctance of some big EU member-states (notably Germany) to clash with Turkey contribute to the vacuum that the Greek-French agreement seeks to fill.
Now the EU and NATO are called on to embody this new dynamic without suffering a blow to their cohesion or to their relationship with each other.
As for us Greeks, may the new agreement provide a sense of greater national self-confidence in the search for a viable relationship with Turkey. This will depend, too, on Ankara acknowledging the danger of its bulimic demands.