OPINION

Tough balancing act

In his address yesterday, Greek Prime Minister Costas Simitis said that Athens will continue on the same course, hoping that it will not have to face any painful dilemmas. For the time being, Greece is trying to strike a balance. It says that the European Union must shape a common defense and security policy, but at the same time it refrains from any action that could annoy Washington. In this context, Simitis announced that our country will not participate in the military campaign against Iraq, but will provide logistical and other support requested by the USA. Given the highly volatile geopolitical situation and the extremely fragile international equilibrium, Greece must weigh up the various security threats on its doorstep. Apart from the open fronts on the Aegean Sea and Cyprus, Greece also has to deal with instability in the north. In other words, Athens cannot afford to shape its foreign policy on the basis of European emancipation and integration alone. Premature though it might be to predict postwar developments, it is certain that as regards Greece’s national security, the situation will become more complex. If Ankara gives the green light to US forces to open a northern front in their war against Saddam, it will reinforce its bargaining position in the shaping of postwar Iraq, and in other areas as well. Furthermore, the unreserved backing by Athens’s Balkan neighbors for US war plans in Iraq could give them the impression that they will, from now on, have more room for maneuver and drive them to make opportunistic moves. It is common knowledge that Athens has based its entire strategy on Ankara’s European orientation, both with respect to the settlement of the Aegean disputes and the resolution of the Cyprus problem after the failure of the recent UN initiative. A reminder is needed here that the European Commission has dubbed Turkey an occupier of EU territory, a fact which puts the brakes on its membership negotiations. Recent developments have prompted some analysts to question whether the accession treaty of the 10 new members will indeed be signed on April 16, and whether it will be ratified by all national assemblies. The support of the East European countries for the USA has raised second thoughts. Some states wish to teach these countries a lesson.